Thursday, March 30, 2006

"United 93": Let's Roll or I'll Never Go?

The title refers to the first theatrical movie based upon the events of September 11th, specifically the plane that went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the plane diverted from whatever the hijackers' original target by Todd Beamer and the other passengers, the "Let's Roll" plane.

This past January there was, on the A&E network, a made-for-TV movie called Flight 93. I didn't watch it and I don't know what it's quality was. According to one news story I found this evening, it was intriguing enough to 5.9 million viewers--the largest single event audience in the history of the A&E network.

United 93 is a big budget Hollywood film. It's coming out on April 28. It's directed by Paul Greengrass, who directed Bloody Sunday and The Bourne Supremacy. According to Jack Thunder--who pays more attention to movies beyond the Spiderman sequels--Greengrass is a competent director who knows how to make a good movie.

That is what, I (and others) think, is part of the problem. Greengrass does know what he's doing, which makes United 93 harder to simply dismiss and ignore. It would be a whole lot easier to turn away in disgust from the commercialization of this subject if someone like Joel Schumacher was the director. But Greengrass is competent and might be able to present a retelling of the events on the plane without making it too overtly jingoistic.

It is much easier to disregard the upcoming Oliver Stone 9/11 movie World Trade Center because Stone has made a reputation of tackling historical movies with his own controversial spin.

I haven't seen anything other then the brief trailer for United 93 (nor do I plan on seeing anything more), but if you choose to follow that link I think you will see what I mean. The trailer is very matter-of-fact; it suggests a movie that presents a clear-cut story. There is no Hollywood heroics and stirring tag lines. Todd Beamer doesn't stand up and say "Let's Roll" like Harrison Ford so famously intoned "Get off my plane." Can the movie simply present the story and let it be? (I am worried, however, about the website design that shows the plane flying over the Statue of Liberty and towards the burning Twin Towers, when it was no where near [I'm correct on this right?] those places.)

But the larger question is, of course, should the film be made? I won't say that it should never be made. Someday, someone, would choose to present the story. But it's not even six year later (Has it even been that long?) and I don't care that "a portion of the box office proceeds will be donated to the Flight 93 National Memorial." I just am uncomfortable with trying to tell this story at this time; I personally think this is too soon. Someday the events on that plane will be something less than current events and something more than mere history. But we will have, for better or for worse, gained some distance and (possibly) some perspective on the events and actions of that day.

Jack T. suggested in a related email that United 93 might be this year's Passion of the Christ, a film that helps motivate the political base and draws a line between those who believe (whatever) and those who don't believe (that whatever . . . or maybe believe something else). I'll let him more accurately outline his thoughts/concerns if he so chooses.

Mostly I just want to point out my own distaste and queasiness regarding the film. If you have opinions, feel free to comment.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Spock hurt my back!

Two days ago I provided links to various Star Trek videos and songs.

Certainly these items are not everyone's cup of tea, and while I try to consider the wider audience of twelve people that normally read WWYG?! there are times when my own interests must necessarily come through--especially if it involves an air conditioner or various nerdy-type television shows.

All this is to say that I am going to provide one more Star Trek link today, but it also has connections to Lord of the Rings, so you know that I'll have something to say about it.

I was alerted to the presence of this video by colleague DG, who immediately shared it with me following his viewing of the Picard Song video.

The spectacle of Leonard Nimoy singing about Bilbo Baggins accompanied by Laugh In extras was so funny, I think I threw my back out while laughing.

Consequently, I am at home today trying to rest some pinched nerve or something.

Maybe if I stay away from Star Trek parodies for a few days I'll recover sufficiently.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

How blue is my bathroom?

Pretty blue . . . and it looks great!

Lynda rocked the paint brushes all weekend long to transform our "master" bath (that term is used so loosely here, I'm afraid the dudes from This Old House are gonna knock down the door and beat me up for misuse of designspeak).

But the new color is great. It's called "Warm Spring", by the way. Don't you love paint names? They are so evocative of indescribable feelings and yearnings that fat, satisfied Americans can't seem to capture. Our lives are so full, so managed, so free of peril and threat that we turn to naming our consumer items with the feelings we can't seem to capture any other way.

But now I get to unleash my inner decorator on the room. (See I make Lynda do all the hard labor and then I swoop in and inflict my taste on things. I would be great on Trading Spaces--not that anyone cares about that show anymore. I would make her do all the work (or do it ineptly) and then argue with the designer about color swatches.

Since we've got new wall color, we really need to swap out the ratty, tired shower curtain. Target to the rescue! I was already there this weekend to buy some new placemats that said SPRING. I went with some Mondrian-influenced mats in Easter-time pastel. Naturally, Lynda didn't like my decision to buy two pairs with different colors.

I think this allows MORE color and is more interesting than having four of the same. That seems too slavish to the theme. (Is it irony that I am worried about being slavish when I purchase my goods at a store that pumps out "style" to anyone with $20 bucks and a way to get to the store?

Monday, March 27, 2006

On the Star Trek tip

If you use this link and visit James Lileks's most recent "Diner" podcast entitled "He's not Ike Clanton" you can be treated to William Shatner BRUTALIZE Elton John's "Rocket Man." (You don't have to have an iPod or subscribe or anything. Plug in your headphones (if you're working), click on the "listen" link and search (if you can) to somewhere around the 9 minute mark. Just hilariously awful. I really hope he was high on marijuana when he recorded that abomination.

About the 14 minute mark, you get the Star Trek theme (of course) but did you know there are lyrics? You can hear them at this point.

In other ST songs, please enjoy (for almost 5 minutes!!!) this awesome machinima video from Jean-Luc Picard that just happens to have a great techno beat!

(If you liked that, you can get more Star Trek insanity here.)

But, what is machinima, you ask? Well, you can read more about this computer-driven, "amateur" film making style with this Slate article.

In other news . . .

1. There have been surprisingly good reviews of Lord of the Rings: The Musical. Well, some of the reviews have been good.

Hey! Stop that laughing! (Oh, alright . . . I laughed the first time I heard about it too. And while no one (not even the shows writers, choreographers, or whatevers) would compare it to Tolkien's original monstrosity of 1100 pages, or to Peter Jackson's 12 hour of filmic mammothness . . . the stagecraft, effects, and general production is going well in its initial Canadian run. (I actually thought "How far away is Toronto?")

2. In other ring-related items, I discovered that my wife went all day without wearing her wedding ring. For SHAME Lynda! For shame!

3. This link is all for the honor and glory of Sarah Bunting. She is one of the minds behind Television Without Pity but is also the proprietor of Tomato Nation.

Every year she runs a pledge drive on her site to benefit New York school children. This year, she challenged the donors to go above and beyond to raise $30,000. If that amount of money was raised, she promised to shave her head bald. They did and she did.

The story of the shaving is better than the pictures that are up so far.

Way to go Sars! You don't know me at all but I am proud of you and all those that pledged.

3. Finally (in this post at least, since I've got three other posts on other topics in the works right now), here is this week's installment of The Authority Speaks, my old (and badly written) sports column.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Fairy tale

Sarah lost her first tooth yesterday.

It had been loose for about a week, but I didn't really expect it to come out this soon. However, yesterday morning she showed me that it was extremely loose (she could move it almost perpendicular to the other teeth with her finger).

When I picked her up for the Young Rembrandts art class, she eagerly showed me that it was out of her mouth. Unfortunately, she was a bit saddened that she had lost the freed tooth while playing on the school playground. After her art class, she wanted the two of us to go back to the playground behind the school and look around for it. (I was non-committal at the time.)

After class, it was about 4:35 and we had to go get Grace from daycare. Sarah had forgotten about the tooth and I thought she had made her peace with the loss. When she prepared to show Grace that her tooth was out of her mouth, she remembered her desire to go and search the playground. She proceeded to plead with me as we were driving through our neighborhood heading to the house. At the corner of Nicole and Spring, I acquiesced and kept on driving back to the school.

We parked the car and Sarah, Grace, and I began our (fruitless) search for the missing masticator. It turns out that searching for a tooth on a playground is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The results were predictable and upsetting. Sarah got very weepy and was mostly concerned that without a tooth under her bed, she wouldn't get a visit from the tooth fairy. No matter how much I tried to reassure her that the tooth fairy was aware of her freed tooth and would surely visit to reward her milestone, Sarah was concerned.

In the end, it took Mom's arrival home (and a few minutes distance from the reality of not finding the tooth) to calm her down. Lynda and Sarah wrote a note explaining to the tooth fairy that tooth was accidentally lost. True to our assurances, the fairy did visit, left evidence of her presence by opening the note and leaving it on her Little Mermaid chair beside the bed, and (of course) leaving a monetary reward.

My girl is growing up fast!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Almost all visuals

Tonight is a new episode of LOST and it is coming on in a few minutes . . . plus I don't have any stirring words tonight.

But fortune favored me this afternoon, awarding me with great photos to present to you.

Before I get to that, however, I will present some more artwork. (If you detest my artwork posts, jump ship now. Try again tomorrow and maybe I'll have something new.)

This is the drawing that Sarah brought home from Young Rembrandts last week. If you are familiar with most of the Young Rembrandt artwork I have presented in the past, you might be thinking that this one is less detailed than the one's assigned in the past. The reason for this is because this was the week that Sarah was complaining of ear pain. She started working on this drawing the day before I took her to the doctor and discovered that she was battling a bad ear infection and ruptured ear drum. (So, while others might analyze this drawing and be impressed with the excellently drawn mouse portrait, I'll always think about how I was a delinquent parent that allowed my child to suffer (and not for her art either).

I am including this drawing, but it's not one of Sarah's. I drew this picture about a year ago after taking the kids on a walk through the neighborhood that ended at the Reservoir. (I think this was a holiday, or maybe a Saturday that Lynda had to work. In any case, it was just the kids and me.) You can see the stroller that I pushed Grace in, along with Sarah over by the water's edge. There were some scrubby, twiggy trees along the bank as well. And, there were ducks.

Now, onto the photos.

A few weeks ago the daycare had their spring photos. We got the girls all dressed up in their new Easter dresses and hoped they would keep them clean enough before the pictures were taken.

Lynda's parents were leaving from their visit that day and maybe that change was the root of the attitude, but Grace was really argumentative that morning.

Sarah's pictures turned out really well, but she usually takes pretty good photos in these settings. This one is, however, pretty exceptional. I really like it.

When we get daycare photos, we always get three packages. One set of individual photos for each girl and one set of photos with both girls together. When we got to the daycare that morning, after Grace had thrown about three separate fits at home and in the car on the way there, we saw that the photographer was already set up and taking some photos of other sibling pairs.

So, we got the girls in front of the lens just as soon as we dropped them off. But Grace was none too happy, so we wondered what the pictures would be like.

We found out today. Here I tell the story through a series of pictures that capture how I imagine the photo shoot went:

This one isn't bad certainly, but it is fairly obvious that Grace isn't in the best of moods. Sarah seems to be helping out, but Grace wants nothing to do with it as this point. But, I like this picture because it captures Grace's stubbornness and her will to do what she wants to do.

Photo #2 begins to show a thaw in Grace's demeanor. Her expression is not surly anymore and she is allowing the photographer to pose her. (Trust me that even an adult like me hates the silliness of photographer posing; I can't imagine that a two-year-old that is truly in a bad mood would allow such flim-flammery.) Anyway, there is progress here--and the picture is cute anyway.

Finally you are seeing a smile (even if it's only a small one) on Grace's face here. I don't like this picture that much because I don't particularly like the posture of Grace's pose. But in the sequence of the story that I am imagining, it is a necessary piece to show how the photographer worked some sort of magic.

It's magic you see, because the photographer took a little girl that was in a really, REALLY bad mood and somehow convinced her to produce the wonderful photo below.

THIS photo, I don't have to tell you is a GREAT photo. I will tell you that this may be the best photo that Grace has ever taken. It's excellent. And I really don't need to add anything more.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Take different ideas, stir, wonder

I found each of these items compelling. Will you?

1. Someone I don't know considered the different personality types of the various women of Star Trek. I agree that Deanna Troi was a bit of a helpless whiner, but I was never a Dr. Pulaski fan (though I grant her opinions grew as her season went on). Please note that the author of this web article uses some, shall we say, forceful language now and then.

2. Chuck Klosterman makes some interesting points about the nature of athletic competitiveness and how we in fandom react. As usual, Klosterman provides an interesting viewpoint on people that just happened to be involved in sports, i.e. don't shy away from this link if you aren't a "sports fan." The point of the article, I think, is what's wrong with culture and what's in our head, not what should the quarterback have done on that 3rd down play from the 47 yard line.

3. New artwork in my office hallway beside the cafeteria. I want to buy some. I really have no clue where I might hang such art, but if I could afford it, I would buy it. And, FYI to all of my readers who aren't lucky enough to come and see me and my habitat in person, the photos of this artwork don't really do it justice. You can't appreciate the particular plasticky, clear, acrylic shine of the pieces in these web photos.

(I'm sorry about that. Take a road trip to see me and it'll all be worth it.)

4. Here's something I venture to guess you've never considered. What is Superman's religion? Technically, his religion is whatever godless rituals are practiced on Krypton. But since he was raised on Earth by God-fearing folk from Kansas, it turns out that Clark Kent's religion is Methodist.

You probably aren't surprised to note that such obscure superheroes as Stigmata, Nun of the Above, and Altar Boy are Roman Catholic. But did you know that The Fantastic Four's Ben Grimm (aka The Thing) is Jewish.

You can find out all this and more at this very interesting website.

So, there you have it. Four different articles and sites on very different things. Which one did you like the most? Which one did you like the least? Did you even click through and give them a try?

Monday, March 20, 2006

How NPR almost caused my divorce

Over the weekend, I was driving around running errands. I heard an NPR story about a new vegetable cookbook by some woman. The title of the cookbook is "Vegetable Love." (Go to to find the link to the book; I'm feeling lazy tonight.)

Anyway, the reporter was interviewing the cookbook author and issuing a challenge. Present a recipe for a tired, staid vegetable that makes it more interesting and new. The chosen vegetable was "carrot." (The recipe can also be found on the aforementioned but unlinked The recipe sounded fairly simple, so when the time came to help Lynda with dinner later that night, I decided to give it a try.

While I didn't have all the ingredients, I combined what ingredients I did have with some memories of an Alton Brown "Good Eats" episode on carrots and came up with a fairly close approximation to what the cookbook author was going for--though I think I was a bit heavy-handed with the cayenne pepper. None of this caused tension in my marriage, however. That came tonight . . . while eating leftovers.

Tonight, we were eating the leftover carrots and warmed up meatloaf. Sarah and Grace were remarking that they didn't want to eat the carrots, which we had not offered to them in the first place. (The girls ate other vegetables instead.) Lynda told Grace that she didn't have to eat the carrots and remarked that they "were pretty spicy." I responded that yes, the carrots were a bit spicy, but they provided a nice counterbalance to the blandness of the meatloaf.

Calling out Lynda's meatloaf as bland didn't seem to sit very well with her. I could immediately see her hackles rise a bit. (Especially since she had put sage in the meatloaf this time.) I quickly backtracked and pointed out that meatloaf was supposed to be bland (but that bland doesn't mean "not tasty" just "not spicy"). I emphasized that her meatloaf was VERY tasty (which was true) and that meatloaf was not intended to be a spicy kind of dish; after all, you don't see Caribbean Jerk meatloaf, right? That got a twinkle in her eyes, so maybe we will see that in the future.

I'll keep you posted on how that turns out.
In other news, we might be snowed in tomorrow and be forced to eat our own young to stay alive.

Such is the breathless reporting regarding the Emergency Level Wrath of God type storm that is poised to strike the Midwest tonight and tomorrow.

According to the mighty forecasts of the local Dual Doppler Skycam Chopper 10 Weather Storm Team we might see (GASP!) 4 to 6 inches of snow through tomorrow.

I shit you not! 4 to 6 FRAKKIN' inches of snow!!

Pray for us; we may never speak again. It's been a good run. I hope the plows make it through before our wood runs out.

Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace

The first DFW book I ever read was A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, a collection of essays and magazine pieces on various topics. I really enjoyed his writing style and his direct, scientific/mathematical approach that gave me a new way of viewing ordinary stuff.

I went on to read Infinite Jest, the work that has served to best define Wallace (whether he likes it that way or not). It may not be his most representative work, currently or in the future, but for now IJ seems to be his Ulysses or his Gone With the Wind--the work that will always be uniquely Wallace's, the first one listed in all of his author bio blurb.

Infinite Jest is a book that defies description. You simply have to try and give it a read, most likely giving up on page 200 after confronting another three page footnote tangent in 6 point type, then attempting to understand why said footnote involves such involved details as the precise chemical composition (with scientific notation & abbreviation) of table salt, and THEN realizing that page 200 is approximately 20% of the total book. Obviously, this isn't everyone's cup of tea.

Consider the Lobster, however is a bit more approachable for the DFW novice. It is, like A Supposedly Fun Thing . . ., another collection of essays and therefore offers a variety of subjects that are of a more reasonable length. The variety of the essays is again appealing in its (seeming) randomness. I suppose the nature of Wallace's life as a writer for hire is that he bounces from magazine to magazine, topic to topic. These disparate essays were written over the course of decade for such different periodicals as Harpers, Rolling Stone, and Gourmet Magazine. (I admit that I wonder how the magazine editors feel when confronted by Wallace's draft manuscript. I imagine that all of his articles are routinely four times longer than requested and full of pointless details and sidebar comments. That is, at least, how these pieces come across, but maybe I am not familiar with the writing style of high brow American monthlies.)

If there is a common theme interwoven between such different subjects as the Adult Video News Awards (Big Red Son), the merits of Bryan A. Garner's A Dictionary of American Usage (Authority and American Usage), a description of how DFW and his neighbors reacted to the events of 9/11/01 (The View from Mrs. Thompson's), the inability of sports figures to write acceptable memoirs--and what that reveals (How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart), John McCain's run for the 2000 Republican nomination (Up, Simba), or whether or not lobsters feel pain when boiled (Consider the Lobster), only DFW knows for sure, I guess. What I do know is that I was confronted with topics and points of view that I wouldn't have found without his book. That is what I like about DFW--uniqueness.

His style is overwhelming, to be sure. It's almost like he approaches his writing like he is an alien using a foreign tongue to describe what he is observing. I think this description is appropriate because Wallace is, by his own admission, a grammar snob (see almost every word of the aforementioned essay Authority and English Usage if you doubt me). But his grammar snobbery leads him to write in a formal manner that reminds me of people who were taught English rather than those who live in English. He also has a rapid-fire style that comes across as breathless and exciting at the same time. Let's take one footnote to see what I mean about style and to appreciate the honesty that comes from his observations:

"As I see it, it probably really is good for the soul to be a tourist, even if it's only once in a while. Not good for the soul in a refreshing or enlivening way, though, but rather in a grim, steely-eyed, let's-look-honestly-at-the-facts-and-find-some-way-to-deal-with-them way. My personal experience has not been that traveling around the country is broadening or relaxing, or that radical changes in place and context have a salutary effect, but rather, that intranational tourism is radically constricting, and humbling in the hardest way--hostile to my fantasy of being a true individual, of living somehow outside and above it all. (Coming up is the part that my companions find especially unhappy and repellent, a sure way to spoil the fun of vacation travel:) To be a mass tourist, for me, is to become a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience. It is to impose yourself on places that in all non-economic ways would be better, realer, without you. It is, in lines and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful: As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing."

That is a wonderful passage, something that I dearly wish I could have conveyed as neatly in my Master's thesis. (More on that another day.)

DFW is great, maybe best in smallish doses, but fun to read. You won't like every essay, nor every topic, but you will find something to admire and think about.
Here is the link to this week's resurrection of my old GSU sports column, The Authority Speaks.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Home work

As noted in the last post, Lynda and I took the day off this past Friday.

We had a rip-roaring good time, working on various home projects, some planned and some simply recognized and engaged. Here's the run down of the things done:

1. We (or more accurately, Lynda) finally got the second, finishing coat of paint on Sarah's bedroom. Now the white walls are white and the accent pink wall is nicely pink. Once the walls were completed, Lynda also hung up some pictures and generally tightened up the feel of the room. It's nice and looks like a finished room is supposed to look. I think Sarah likes it as well.

2. While Lynda was upstairs rolling on the paint, I was downstairs doing two things. I was keeping one eye on the Buckeye game against Davidson while I was also attempting to remove the bay window seating bench that the previous owners had built. Lynda and I had never really liked it and it isn't very comfortable to sit on, so we decided to get it out of there and give us more room in the eating area.

Luckily the bench wasn't bolted to the floor or anything complicated like that. It was bay-window shaped and rather large, however, so I was a bit concerned about how I was going to move it. (Not that I was going to ask Lynda for help or anything.) I decided that I wasn't going to simply throw it out, as it could still be functional for some seating (or maybe for firewood someday). But the only place to put it was the basement, which meant getting it down the narrow flight of stairs.

I was able to drag it across the floor and flip it on its side, allowing it to fit through the basement doorway. Going slowly, I was able to brace it while it slid down the steps. But then, it got wedged in the turn at the bottom of the stairs as it made a hard 90 degree turn into the basement proper. The length , weight, and shape of the bench prevented me from getting it any further. So, I went upstairs to be frustrated and then to scrape up the masking tape on the floor where the bench used to be.

Finally I asked Lynda for help twisting the bench the rest of the way through into the basement. With a bit of grunting and effort, it got done.

Two jobs down!

3. On Saturday we tackled another job that we have been thinking about for a while and finally got accomplished--swapping out the stove in our kitchen.

Our current stove has been balky for a while now; the burners cut in and out at odd times, making cooking a bit more difficult than it should be. But the lucky thing was that some of our friends from church just finished remodeling their own kitchen and were willing to sell us their old electric stove cheaply. It is a nice, quick upgrade over our current one, so we jumped at the chance. But how to get it from their house to ours?

We don't have a truck, so I decided to rent one from Home Depot. Unfortunately, you can't reserve the single truck that they had available. So on Saturday I got up early and rented the truck as soon as the HD opened. Unfortunately, I only had the truck for 75 minutes at the low, low rate of $19. After that time period, they started charging an additional $5 per 15 minutes. A quick call to our friends house and I drove the truck over there and he helped me load up the stove and drove back with me to move around the old one, new one etc. Electric stoves are easy to install (just plug and go!) and it was all over before 10:30 that morning.

4. All of this renovation got us in the mood for more, so I also removed the old, non-functioning landscape lights in the front yard and replaced them with individual solar-powered lights. There are no electrical cords to bury and no plugs to worry about, so you can put them anywhere and they work pretty well. So well in fact that I added some more in the backyard today.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A couple of posts about "rock"

No . . . actor/wrestler The Rock isn't featured in this post (yet!).

It's first and foremost about two very separate things: The B-52 song "Rock Lobster" and the basketball term for the ball (i.e. the rock).

Last night, in a fit of celebratory madness (again a March basketball reference) Lynda and I took the kids out to eat at Local Chain Restaurant #15. All fine and good, but one of the songs played over the speakers was . . . "Rock Lobster" by The B-52s.

I love the Bs. Gotta support the Georgia bands you see; keep up the stereotypes. Their music is fun, catchy, exuberant, great for parties. "Rock Lobster" is one of my favorites and while everyone has heard it, it doesn't get the fan backlash that overplayed songs such as "Love Shack" or REM's "Stand" gets (at least not for me).

But, as "Rock Lobster" plays over the speakers, one of the wait staff walks by and comments to someone else that this is such a long song. And truly, I'd never thought about it that way. But it IS a long song. I just get lost in it and don't care. Plus, I had fun rocking out to it with the kids and generally making a spectacle in the restaurant.

The best news is that it inspired me to get off my butt and download one of the B-52's greatest hits albums, something I've thought about doing a lot over the years, but have never done. Well, now I have and it is a good day.

The list of songs:

1. Planet Claire
2. 52 Girls
3. Rock Lobster
4. Party Out Of Bounds
5. Strobelight
6. Private Idaho
7. Quiche Lorraine
8. Mesopotamia
9. Song For A Future Generation
10. Summer Of Love (Original Unreleased Mix)
11. Channel Z
12. Deadbeat Club
13. Love Shack
14. Roam
15. Good Stuff
16. Is That You Mo-Dean?
17. Debbie
18. Hallucinating Pluto

Really, it's the first half of the album that make it worth getting. Classic Bs. I can't listen to them without thinking of my brother MSquared, who first introduced me to the group back in the mid 1980s when he was in college at Georgia Tech. Lynda and I visited MSquared and his wife when we were in college and listened to the B-52s while playing Pictionary. During that drive to Atlanta we discussed getting married and having children for the first time. We even discussed specific children's names. Good times.


As noted, the other meaning of rock is slang for basketball. And basketball in March means NCAA tournament time. And put all that together and it means I am running my office pool, hoping for the best and receiving the worst. Today (day 1) started well; I got the first three games of the day correct and then proceeded to pick incorrectly on each of the next four. I suck, as per usual.

More on the grisly details of my annual basketball demise as the tournament proceeds.


Finally, I am taking tomorrow off, and so is Lynda.

That rocks most of all!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Catching up with my Young Rembrandt

Sarah has been busy with her artwork lately, so it's time for another round of--

What's THAT Drawing?

First up today, we have this bit of art work that Sarah did several weeks ago:

This, I hope you can see is a collection of trophies. The artist must learn to compose various shapes and colors into a unified whole--blue ribbons, yellow ribbons, cups, pedestals, what have you. I think the point here is to get kids to plan ahead a little and gauge their usable space to ensure enough paper to accommodate the numerous trophies. (Either that or it teaches the kids something about winning, losing, those that are valuable and those that are not. But . . . I might be reading into that a bit too much.)

This drawing actually was a study in technique, specifically teaching children to learn about the use of what is called "negative space."
By choosing the intersecting branches of several trees as the main compositional item and then leaving the trees white, while coloring the background behind it. The artist makes the background become an important part of the image, allowing it to "pop" towards the foreground.
Of course, Sarah chose to color her trees a vivid blue, thereby weakening the use of negative space and invalidating the entire exercise. Huzzah for individuality, and remember Rembrandt, "You can't tell me what to do!

(For more examples of negative space, please examine this.)

About the time that Sarah was ignoring the concept of negative space, that is about two or three weeks ago, we purchased The Incredibles on DVD. Sarah and Grace have both enjoyed watching the movie and this is Sarah's artistic tribute to the characters.

From left to right we have: (1) Dash, who runs fast (2) Jack Jack, the baby that doesn't do anything "super" until the end of the film (3) Mrs. Incredible, who is very stretchy and was known as ElastaGirl before she married (4) Mr. Incredible, who is all-purpose strong. Finally there is (5) Violet, who is Dash's older sister and can make herself disappear and also project forcefields (pictured).

Sarah's disembodied head lurks at the bottom of the image, serving either as her signature or as a desire to be considered Incredible herself. Another point that I find interesting is that she has placed Mrs. Incredible in the central place of honor in the picture. Would a boy have placed Mr. Incredible first? Does Sarah see Mrs. Incredible as the star of the movie in a way that I can't discern?

The final image was from this past week's class and is another study in artistic technique, specifically perspective. The train is drawn so that it appears to be coming towards the viewer. This is done by enlarging the head of the train engine, especially the cowcatcher and nose and shrinking the back area where the engineer stands.

An important element in this drawing is the grouping of the wheels. Sarah had a bit of trouble with that part of the train, crowding them a bit too much. But, overall, there is a strong sense of perspective.

So, there you have it. Sarah is doing good work and I am proud of her pieces. Whether it ever allows her to be a penniless, hungry artist someday remains to be determined.


In other news, the latest edition of my old Georgia Southern sports column, The Authority Speaks, is now up and available for your viewing enjoyment and/or horror.

Check it out here.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Latest 2 (Electric Boogaloo)

I was originally going to call this post "Media Update (without the Omni-)" but I think this title has more poetry to it.

It's been a quiet week around my house. Everyone has been recovering from various ailments--Sarah's ear infection/eardrum rupture of last week is done with the medication phase, which is the only phase that I know of. Grace had strep throat, Lynda had a work-related cold (the kind of cold where you are working so hard that you can somehow force your body to keep on going and then as soon as the deadlines pass, you sort of crumple into sickness); I had a pretty bad sore throat and cough and cold.

In the midst of all this, Lynda's parents also came to visit for a quick few days. They hung out while we worked and they helped look after the kids when they were home from daycare with sickness one day. It was a nice visit. I hope they had a relaxing couple of days here.

Because it was a sort of quiet week, I don't have a lot of exciting news and activities to report. So I guess I'll take this opportunity to report on some books and other things that I've been reading lately.

While They're at War
I heard about it on NPR. (That should be a shirt they give out to subscribing members during pledge drives.) It started out engaging and at first, I really enjoyed getting the perspective of the wife left behind. Eventually, I grew a bit tired of it. The author's style never wavered and her commitment to the subject remained strong. I guess that I (in a metaphorical shift that reflects a civilian's commitment) grew tired of it all and wanted it to end.

I think this book would be very valuable to any spouse struggling to cope with the myriad of problems they face their their soldier is off somewhere else. The description of the various programs the military provides to make the domestic life easier is all there.

V for Vendetta
There are many reasons that I decided to read this book. First, it's a graphic novel--something that I enjoy reading and this one is written by Alan Moore, one of the best graphic novel story authors. Second, this is the basis of a big-budget movie coming out this weekend--courtesy of the Wachowski Brothers (of Matrix trilogy fame). Third in order of logic, but second in reality, the movie features Natalie Portman, who is a great improvement over the character as drawn in the original story.

The story itself, (written in the 1980s) is set in late 1990s Britain, which is not bombed in a nuclear exchange between the superpowers and their allies (Britain's government having gotten rid of their nukes prior to the war). Though "whole" after the war, the climatic conditions and economic/agricultural conditions bring about the rise of a fascist government to run the country. And then comes the Vendetta part.

The movie ought to be visually interesting and I have some hopes for the acting. The V character (the dude in the weird Guy Fawkes mask) is played by Hugo Weaving. Evey is played by Natalie Portman.

One of the best things about the movie campaign are the movie posters, which are based on Russian revolutionary posters.

Right now I'm reading a collection of essays by David Foster Wallace. I'll withhold full judgment on it until I'm finished, but the selection is certainly varied (everything from the porn industry "Oscars," to tennis star Tracy Austin, to the political, social, and cultural disagreements behind the meaning and usage of Standard Written English. So, its interesting, sometimes difficult to read, but certainly mind-expanding.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Latest

I don't have a lot to say today.

Feeling kind of tired. Fighting a cold. Coming to work and trying to marshall my energy into some productive directions.

Deadlines grow sharper in focus all the time and I just have trouble gathering my enthusiasm to rise to the challenge lately.

Sarah is recovering from an ear infection; we found out today that Grace has strep throat; Lynda is just getting over various ailments, and I feel crappy too.

Oh yeah, and its March, rainy and gloomy.


I am a bit excited that tomorrow Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire comes out on DVD. I know that I have reminded Sarah of it a few times and she is excited as well. Maybe we can watch it together (as long as I skip any scary and disturbing parts).

My latest Why Won't You Write "The Authority Speaks" column is available for you to ignore.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Oh Oscar, I wish I knew how to quit you!

(I promise I won't make any more stupid jokes like that again.)

So, the Academy Awards show is coming up this Sunday. I might keep track of things on my blog--but I'll be hosting a bit of a party at the same time, so maybe not.

As is typical of all important (non-religious) events in March, you've got to make your picks and demonstrate to everyone that you are smarter about this stuff than they are.

The problem, however, is that I haven't seen any of the big movies this year--not a single one! So, how in the world am I gonna have any chance of getting it right and looking like a genius? (The answer is that I probably don't have any chance in hell.)

Sure, there are probably some choices that are dead-solid locks. (I call those the "Jamie Foxx in Ray Locks".) But there are also others in which I don't have any chance of getting them right. (I call those the Foreign Film Documentary category.)

But, I'll make my picks anyway; and I'll even give some mindless commentary and links also.

So, enough foreplay! Let's get it on!


Best Supporting Actress: The choices--Amy Adams, Junebug; Catherine Keener, Capote; Frances McDormand, North Country; Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener; Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain

What do you do with this one? In my recent memory, it seems that this category often "takes a flyer" and is a bit radical in its choice. Heck, Anna Paquin won it once, and she was only 8 years old. In that spirit, I am choosing Michelle Williams as this year's Best Supporting Actress. (She was a main character on Dawson's Creek after all.) So, I think the Academy is going out on a limb to get an Academy Award within one degree of James Van Der Beek.

Best Supporting Actor: The choices--George Clooney, Syriana; Matt Dillon, Crash; Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man; Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain; William Hurt, The Squid and the Whale

The media and many experts have bemoaned the lack of high powered films in this year's Oscar nominees. I don't know about all that--because as I said, I haven't seen any of these films, but this is, in my opinion, the most competitive category this year. As such, it's not an easy choice. William Hurt has the only "Hollywood Royalty" cachet amongst these nominees and The Squid and the Whale was very well received (if not seen by anyone). George Clooney is the triple-threat nominee this year. Jake Gyllenhaal has let propel him to another level of stardom . . . but he's got Bubble Boy dragging him down at the same time. Paul Giamatti is the guy that has been overlooked several times in the past, so Oscar Logic dictates that he will be given the award this year, when he should have won last year for Sideways. Giamatti also gets bonus points in that this is the worst of the films he has recently been nominated for. (But I really want to give this one to Clooney.) Winner: Giamatti.

Best Animated Feature: The choices--Howl's Moving Castle; Tim Burton's Corpse Bride; Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-rabbit

It's probably guaranteed that the voting members of the Academy are using the screeners of these films as coasters. [WARNING: Link somewhat long and the prose is a bit "blue."] The likelihood of (what I imagine to be old fogeys) watching these animated films is slim. So, they will likely go with either name-recognition or box office success. Everyone knows Tim Burton, but not everyone likes his point of view. The Curse of the Were-rabbit was very successful, so I am picking it as the winner.

Best Director: The choices--Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain; Bennett Miller, Capote; Paul Haggis, Crash; George Clooney, Good Night and Good Luck; Steven Spielberg, Munich

Spielberg gets nominated no matter what, even if the Academy didn't feel good watching his movie. Paul Haggis and George Clooney are tainted by their connection to The Facts of Life TV show. I think Ang Lee
wins for Brokeback Mountain. It's the film that has the largest amount of support AND people are trying to tell us that it is a message film and that America is ready to learn something from it. I don't know about all that, but I think Lee will come out the winner.

Documentary Feature: The choices--Darwin's Nightmare; Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room; March of the Penguins; Murderball; Street Fight

This one is easy. Even though people LOVED Murderball (and I even tried to see it), March of the Penguins will march away with the trophy. Its about Republican family values, after all.

Makeup: The choices--The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe; Cinderella Man; Star Wars: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith

Ron Howard just told Russell Crowe to go drinking every night and pick a fight with someone that annoyed him. Paul Giamatti actually uses make up to look good in everyday life, he takes in off in movies. So, Cinderella Man is disqualified. George Lucas won't ever get an Academy Award until he gets the Lifetime Achievement award. (They might rename it the Please Stop Making Films award then, but STEp.IIIRotS gets NOTHING! So, TCoN:TLTWaTW takes the high ground on this one.

Original Song: The choices--"In the Deep" from Crash; "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from Hustle and Flow; "Travelin' Thru" from Transamerica

This might be the most anticipated moment of the broadcast. How can you perform "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" when it features such lyrical words as pimp and bitch. How did it even get nominated? Well, anyway. Dolly Parton will win for "Travelin' Thru."

Best Actress: The choices--Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents; Felicity Huffman, Transamerica; Keira Knightly, Pride and Prejudice; Charlize Theron, North Country; Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

This is a tough one. A lot of the media say this is the weakest Best Actress field in years. But how do you decide who to give it to? Well, since I followed Oscar Logic to name the Best Supporting Actor, then I guess I'll try to use it to figure out the Best Actress. Usually, if a pretty actress "gets ugly" to show their "acting" ability, it is a Jamie Foxx Lock for convincing the Academy. It worked for Nicole Kidman and most recently worked for Charlize Theron. Well, Theron is back again, but she doesn't get ugly enough in North Country. A hair bandanna and some dirt on the cheeks won't do. Not when Felicity Huffman goes beyond "getting ugly" and is a woman portraying a man that wants to be a woman. This is so confusing that Charlie Kauffman must be proud. I wouldn't be surprised, exactly, if Witherspoon wins for Walk the Line, but I'm gonna go with Oscar Logic.

In a mad rush, I'll blow through a few that no one knows about--the "technical" awards:

Best Art Direction--I'll go with Good Night and Good Luck because it seems like Clooney's movie should be rewarded for something. The Academy often pads unappreciated movies in this way.
Best Cinematography--Hey, let's here it for Terrence Malick's The New World! According to Jack Thunder this is a great movie and Malick is always strong in cinematography.
Best Costume Design--This one turns into a chick flick cat fight between Pride and Prejudice and Memoirs of a Geisha. I'm thinking the Academy voters are going to be seduced more by Asian costumery than that Jane Austen stuff.
Best Short Documentary--I am completely out of my element here. So, I'm probably just like 80 percent of the Academy voters who haven't seen the film or anything. I/We will just pick the one with the most exotic name, namely God Sleeps in Rwanda.
Best Foreign Language Film--Once again, the chances of really watching these films is remote. So, I'll go with the one I've heard of--Joyeux Noel. It's also helpful that this one is about the World War I Christmas Truce in 1914. It seems humanistic and important and stuff.
Best Visual Effects--It's a battle of titans here: King Kong versus War of the Worlds versus The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I've already awarded TCoN:TLTWaTW a statue for best makeup, so I'm giving it a pass here. Dare I stiff Steven Spielberg twice? Yep, I dare. Peter Jackson is the new Steven Spielberg, so King Kong's (sort of) impressive effects gets rewarded here. (Plus, the people at WETA were nice to my inlaws when they visited New Zealand.)
Best Sound Mixing--Aw, who cares . . . let's give it to War of the Worlds. Steven Spielberg can't be denied all night long, can he?
Best Sound Editing--Lets give this one to King Kong as well. Considering that most of the movie and the characters resided inside a computer, I think the technicality of the sound achievement is greater than that of Memoirs of a Geisha and War of the Worlds.
Best Short Film (Live Action) and Best Short Film (Animated)--are awarded to Six Shooter and Badgered for no reasons at all.
Best Film Editing--I'll give this one to The Constant Gardener because it is probably too good of a movie not to get anything at all. And I have heard that it is good.
Best Original Score--(Which one is done by John Williams, because honestly, he's the only one that ever wins, right?) And so, Memoirs of a Geisha, you get the nod. (A brief aside on this category. One of the best things about Oscar season is when NPR's Weekend Edition devotes five segments to dissecting and discussing the merits of each of the Original Score nominees. Of course, I rarely get the chance to hear these, but when I do, it's a great experience.)
Best Adapted Screenplay--I would like to give this one to A History of Violence and this might be Munich's best chance to win something. Then again, what about Capote? Nope, in the end, this one also goes to Brokeback Mountain, making it the "big winner" of the night--though that will be a relatively weak "big winner" this year.
Best Original Screenplay--This is another toss up pick and is full of really difficult choices. I would like to reward Clooney for his importance/impact this year, but probably Syriana and will work against each other. I actually SAW Matchpoint, but I don't think it will carry the day. I guess the Academy will try to make up for other slights by giving this award to Crash. That team should enjoy it while they can, because they won't win in the remaining categories.

So, now we are down to two--

Best Actor: The choices--Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote; Terrence Howard, Hustle and Flow; Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain; Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line; David Strathairn, Good Night and Good Luck

The Academy likes biographies, but neither David Strathairn nor Joaquin Phoenix submerged themselves in the role adequately enough for this to be a Jamie Foxx Lock type of moment. No, the real race is between Heath Ledger and PSH. (Sorry Terrence Howard, but playing a pimp--even one that might have a heart of gold) won't do. If you were a woman and got ugly to play a prostitute, I'd give it to you.) So, I would have easily given this one to Ledger a few months ago, but the Capote momentum has grown pretty strong. It's probably a very close margin, but I think I'll go with Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. I don't like ignoring PSH's performance and denying Capote so many times, but since both of these guys are getting nominated for the first time, one of them has to pay their dues a bit more. Besides, it opens up Hoffman to get nominated and selected for a much less deserving role in about three years--call it the Russell Crowe Insider to Gladiator progression.

Best Film: The choices--Brokeback Mountain; Capote; Crash; Good Night and Good Luck; Munich

I think Brokeback Mountain is going to win here. All of these films are well made and well meaning, but only one of them has spawned so many parodies, jokes, references, etc. It's the film of the moment and that is usually good enough for the Academy these days. Besides, we've got to have an acceptance speech that explains how America needs to learn something from gay cowboys.

Friday, March 03, 2006

A troubling sign for LOST fans

You can't spin this news in a good way.

In a season of episodes that have been slow, frustrating, occasionally engaging and exciting . . . now we get word that Darren Aronofsky won't be directing one of the episodes of LOST this year.

Sure, he's saying that he still likes the show, his schedule didn't work out (it IS in Hawaii after all) and his wife is expecting a child.

But this is a troubling sign that the show has lost a bit of it's fastball and can't carry the clout it earned in its first, breakout water-cooler opening season.

I hold out hope . . . but I'm probably naive. I WANT the show to be good; I WANT everyone to talk about it; I WANT things to be exciting.

I doesn't have to be logical; it probably won't resolve itself in a neat, coherent manner; I just want it be captivate and engage people again.

If Aronofsky is sincere and really wants to be involved, maybe that will help. But the people that brought it together in the first place have got to start the ball rolling!

(Aren't they concerned that the sales for season 2 DVDs aren't going to match the sales for season 1?)

Beating a Dead Horse

Sorry for bringing this up again and again, but I was struck by an oddity.

This quick note is to inform you that while I'm working on a spreadsheet and listening to a Lileks Diner Podcast, I am stunned to note that he is going on about eye-contact etiquette in men's restrooms.

Aren't you excited by this?

Is he reading me?

(Nah . . . it's a universal topic, don'tcha' know.)

But I can dream!

On a completely unrelated tack--
When should a guy replace a pair of shoes?
When the sole is flapping with each step; when the sole is beginning to separate from the upper; when the sole is beginning to thin but hasn't quite gone all the way through; or when they are simply looking tired and old and in need of replacement?
I ask because, naturally, one of my pairs of shoes is a combination of the last two choices. They are old (about two years old, but I don't have lots of shoes, so they've had plenty of use). But, the soles are still attached and no holes have developed.
Two digressions about shoes:
1. My brother Muleskinner once sewed his soles back on a particularly old and, I suppose, memorable pair of shoes. But Muleskinner has always had a bit of frontiersman about him.
2. I once heard/read (?) that Alan Alda wore the same pair of combat boots throughout all eleven years of M*A*S*H's television run. The story goes that he got the shoes from a soldier that served in Vietnam and always wanted to use them, holes and mud and stink and all, to give himself a connection to the hardships of the solder. I don't know if it's true, but it ought to be true.
So . . . when should I replace these shoes? I've been waiting for a good reason for several months now. But, until structural damage occurs, I haven't been able to justify the expense. Is it putting out a hoboish vibe around the department? Are people viewing me differently, judging me by my shoddy footwear? Am I the only one that actually pays attention to shoes? Do I have a foot fetish?
(Nope . . . not answering that one.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

LOST . . . tonight!

LOST is new tonight.

Since you might have given up on the show, you should read this post to make yourself so disgusted or so intrigued and prepared to prove it wrong.

Go ahead, try to deny it!