Saturday, January 31, 2009

Three great tastes that go great together.

Or is it four?

At Trader Joe's, up at the impulse buy section near the checkout counters, there's a new dark chocolate wedge flavor. Dark chocolate with ancho and chipotle peppers with a trace of cinnamon. Sweet and spicy and, mmm mmm good!

With a glass of red wine, like the Abrazo Del Toro my sister Jenny recommended to me, it's a lovely snack rich in antioxidants.

Like I care two figs about that. I like it because it tastes realllly delicious. Some may find it too spicy, but if the combo sounds good to you, you won't be disappointed.

Historic is good, historic is nice...

As we all know, Barack Hussein Obama is the first United States president of African ancestry. That's a pretty big jump for us, because until Obama, we hadn't even elected a president whose ancestry was from anywhere but a small swath of Northeastern Europe. British, Irish, German, Dutch... that was about it. No Hispanics, no Italians, no French, and forget Eastern European or Jewish or Asian. So, nice going, Mr. President.

Of course, he gets the job when the last guy hands him two unfinished wars, a nasty recession, Guantanamo and a still toxic political climate in Washington, D.C. Historic is good, historic is nice, but timing. Timing is also good.

This handsome woman is Johanna Sigurdadottir, the new prime minister of Iceland and the first openly gay leader of a nation in history. Talk about breaking down barriers, now that's a barrier. This might just get some of our senators and governors to think about being honest about their sexuality.

Okay, that was a joke. Most of them are Republicans, and that's just not gonna happen.

But like with Obama, you have to wonder if Ms. Sigurdadottir really wants the gig right this minute, given that the only country in the world whose economy is obviously and clearly worse than Iceland's is Zimbabwe.

As I said before, historic is good, historic is nice...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Naughty Monkey Double Dare

No, this is not me taunting my blog buddies Dr. Monkey and Dr. Zaius. This is a post about serious politics.

If by serious politics, we mean really ugly women's shoes.

The Baltimore Sun reports that someone claiming to be Sarah Palin's niece is putting Palin memorabilia up on eBay and getting paid big time.

A pair of red Naughty Monkey Double Dare pumps, which the seller claims were the ones worn by Gov. Palin the day she was introduced in Dayton, Ohio, sold at auction for $2,025. Why didn't the press let us know about this important detail and pound it into the ground? Well, it was the first day she was introduced, so they can be forgiven for not being as obsessed with trivialities as usual, since people wanted the important information, like exactly where she finished in the Miss Alaska beauty contest and what her talent was.

This picture is from the introduction in Dayton, though the Sun isn't sure the shoes sold at auction are these shoes. As you might guess by the name Naughty Monkey Double Dare, these are not top of the line, haute couture footwear. They sell for less than $100 in many stores near you.

Let me say again: really ugly shoes.

On the plus side: They do show off a very nice pedicure.

Let's think about this for a minute. There's that tired old saying "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." Well, that cliche actually had some meaning for Gov. Palin that Friday in Dayton. In the space of a few minutes, she would go from being this famous to being THAT FAMOUS, and on this special day, wanting to put her best foot forward, she goes to her closet and decides to wear these shoes.

You can just hear a couple Republican operatives in the first row looking at her at the podium and talking to each other.

"Man, she's hot, but we gotta get someone on board to stop her from dressing herself funny. What do you think we need to spend, one hundred thousand?"

"Mmmmmm... make it a hundred fifty. And get somebody who knows how to apply make-up. Ask Cindy if she knows somebody."

Random 10, 1/30

Just for a change of pace, I'm going to put the comments right after the songs.

Hidden Charms Elvis Costello
Written by Willie Dixon. If Willie Dixon only wrote The Seventh Son, he'd be one of the greatest blues composers ever, but he wrote. A LOT. I loves me some Willie Dixon.

Monkey's Paw Laurie Anderson
This is the quirky pixie from later in her career. If it was up on The You Tubes, you'd hear Bobby McFerrin in the background.

Chan Chan Buena Vista Social Club
Years ago, Laurie Anderson was asked at some high falutin' conference what was the future of music. "Cuban music." She answered. She's a smart little pixie.

Valse Minute (Chopin) Claudio Arrau
The You Tubes are not our friends this week. I love Claudio Arrau. He was so elegant.

Let's Get It On Marvin Gaye
If you are with that someone special, and you put some Marvin on your stereo, and you don't get some sumthin' sumthin', you have to look into the possibility this whole Sex Thing just isn't for you.

I Want You Back The Jackson 5
I will let you in on a dirty little secret of the Lotsa 'Splainin' Random 10. Sometimes the random DJ in my iTunes plays a song that was on another list recently and I skip over it. But Mr. Random could put I Want You Back on the list every week from now until eternity and I would never skip over it because the back-up band rocks. So. DAMN. Hard!

My Little Blue Window Elvis Costello
Sometimes I'll skip over an artist to avoid repeat visits in the same Random 10, but since Elvis was nice enough to record somebody else's song for a change, I thought I'd also put him on singing one of his own as well. It also has a lyric that seems very apropos in 2009.

How am I ever gonna make you see?
Nothing in this ugly world comes easily.

Please Please Me The Beatles
Before the Wonders of Science could fill an entire set list with originals, we played Please Please Me, Brian Eno's Burning Airlines Give You So Much More, and Prince's When You Were Mine. With the Beatles on the list, the picture of the girls dancing at The Cavern club seemed to fit.

Lucky Ball And Chain They Might Be Giants
Does this sound like anyone to you? Whenever I hear this song, I think of... Ricky Nelson.
And I mean that in a good way.

Change Partners Fred Astaire
Again, no help from The You Tubes. Bad You Tubes! Bad! No biscuit for you!
When I wrote about my evening at the Noir City Film Festival, I forgot to mention the organist playing The Mighty Wurlitzer before the first show. It was great and he played Change Partners! The movies are still playing Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Fun for the entire family, if the family is a little dysfunctional.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Big publicity for My People's Agenda.

So, Matty Boy, are there a lot of people who are secretly members of Your People and share Your Agenda?

Good question, hypothetical. I'm not sure of the answer, but from the best data I have collected, I'm going to have to say no. It's pretty rare for guys to think giant women are hubba hubba, or to have fantasies about being shrunken down by a normal sized woman. Women who have these fantasies are much, much rarer. From what information I can gather about fetishes in general, one of the most common is one that people have heard about most often, the fetish involving feet and shoes.

But in 2009, the rarity of our odd little interest does not stop us from getting publicity at the crazy big level, like say, a hyped-up 3-D ad at halftime of the Super Bowl. Monsters vs. Aliens is a new animated film due out this summer, and will feature a forty-nine foot eleven inch tall heroine named Ginormica, voiced by the tiny yet perfectly formed actress Reese Witherspoon. The movie is going to be released in regular format, in 3-D and IMAX. While there are other monsters in the movie, if you see some guy in a raincoat sitting in the front row of the IMAX screen of the movie, he's probably one of My People.

And I really don't want to be introduced to that guy. Just because I'm the unofficial spokesman of My People, I don't have to be pals with all of My People, if you get my drift.

Then there's the slightly different interest of men dating women taller than they are, which I have discussed in the Gigantic Child Bride posts. I do not know for sure if people like the tall woman/short guy pictures because they find them sexy or funny, but I still get hits every week from BuzzFeed through a link I put up there in 2007.

My comment buddy Lockwood sent me a pointer to a lolz of Dutch actress Carice Van Houten, who plays Tom Cruise's wife in Valkyrie, with a caption making fun of Mr. Cruise's alleged lack of stature. Ms. Van Houten is actually only 5'6" tall, so there is little chance Mr. Cruise is going to throw over his current much taller bride Katie Holmes to take up with her. In real life, Tom likes the big girls, since Mimi Rogers, Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes are all listed as several inches taller than he is.

I'm sure he has a sparkling personality. And a bunch of creepy friends who can really help your career, as long as you keep quiet and do as you are told.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Helpin' a padre GIT PAID!

For those of you who need an introduction, these are Gallito Mescalito, Red Mr. Peanut Bank and Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love, stars of a regular Friday Night program over at Padre Mickey's Dance Party, run but said Padre Mickey his own bad self, ably assisted by his bride, The Lovely Mona. Mickey and Mona live in Panama, where the cost of living is very nice, but the padre is about to go on a sabbatical to Los Estados Unidos, where things are damned expensive. He gets paid like he's a preist or something, which means even adjunct professors such as myself get to look at the Padre and say "Day-am, son! You broke!"

So what can a padre do? A padre can SELL OUT, not unlike one of his favorite rock and roll combos, The Who. The Padre now has a little nook of Cafe Press all cordoned off and is selling the likenesses of his Friday night SUPERSTARS on mugs, t-shirts and all those things we naturally put pictures on. Be the first kid on your block to have a Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love baseball jersey! (Unless you live on my block, where you will be the second kid on your block with this fabulous item.) All proceeds donated to a worthy cause, the cause of Padre Mickey GITTIN' PAID, 'cause day-am! He's broke!

Wednesday Math, Vol. 58: Third thoughts on math education

When I entered high school, I took a typing class in summer school before my freshman year. It was an elective class, and my dad thought it would be a good idea. I want to say it didn't help much, as I am a hunt and peck typist all these decades later, and the damn tunes the teacher played to have us type to a rhythm are still stuck in my head, as are many tunes from other sources. There's not much helping that.

Still, the school provided a useful service in teaching a typing class back then, as it was a skill useful to many people regardless of whether they would go on to college or not. Sadly, the over-reliance on standardized tests in so many aspects of the educational means cutting back on "electives", which means any classes that aren't focused on topics that will be on the standardized tests.

Along similar lines in today's world, I would like to see high school students get training in spreadsheets. Googling "high school spreadsheets", I see I am not the first person with this good idea, but it looks like something only a few schools do, and I assume it is not a mandatory class. Reading some of the websites, there are teachers that dislike the fact that teaching spreadsheets means that you are actually teaching Excel, and they grumble about Microsoft. That's understandable, but nearly unavoidable. Others worry that some vocabulary is used in different ways in a math class than it is in a spreadsheet setting, and since the class will probably be handed to the math department by default, this could cause confusion. Again, unavoidable. The farther you get into math, the more words math appropriates and gives new and unfamiliar definitions, and likewise other fields do the same, so this confusion is par for the course.

Spreadsheets make many statistical calculations much simpler, and it's a good place to get hands on training in the idea of recursion, a mathematical concept that has been around for millenia but became much more important as computers grew more prevalent in society and more computationally powerful.

Like typing, spreadsheet use is a skill needed by those who will go on to college and those who won't. Nearly any office job can involve spreadsheet use in today's world, and high schools should give more thought about what they can offer students who do not plan to continue on to college as well as those who do plan more schooling.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Having time to read.

This Christmas, my sister Jenny got me an Amazon gift certificate, so I picked up a few books from authors I have enjoyed recently. Being underemployed, I've taken work in Fremont as a tutor, which is a half hour ride on BART each way, a perfect chunk of time for reading. I've had finished two books I bought with the gift certificate in January, the new Nick Hornby collection of book reviews Shakespeare Wrote For Money and Sarah Vowell's latest historical treatise about the beginning of the Massachusetts Bay colony, The Wordy Shipmates.

I could easily write a separate blog post about each, but there are obvious connections that justify writing about the books together. The first and most obvious is that Sarah Vowell writes the introduction to Hornby's book, starting her short piece with the sentence "I like liking things." She should like Hornby. While they appear to be very different, in some important ways they are almost the same person. Hornby is British, obsessive about Arsenal football and pop music, best known for fiction, but also has written criticism and a memoir thrown in, while Vowell is American, obsessive about American history and pop culture, best known for her radio pieces on This American Life and books about American history that are at once scholarly, personal and very funny. What they have in common is their sense of humor, which springs from their acceptance of their nerdy selves.

Shakespeare Wrote For Money is the second and last of book of essays taken from Hornby's employment stint as a monthly book reviewer for the San Francisco based magazine The Believer, the first book entitled The Polysyllabic Spree. The magazine is run by people who Hornby describe as a cult, one to which he does not belong, but that is no reason not to take the work. As in the previous book, each chapter is a essay from the monthly magazine and begins with a list of books Hornby has bought and another list of books he has read. Early in this working relationship, the editors at The Believer decided that because this was supposed to be a celebration of the joys of reading, they forbade Hornby from giving books bad reviews. At first he bristled slightly, adding to his list of books titles like Anonymous Spy Novel or Anonymous Non-Fiction when he read a book he didn't like, but by the time he writes the essays that comprise Shakespeare Wrote For Money, he only has one untitled book in fifteen months.

The big change from the first book is that Hornby wrote a novel called Slam that his editors decided to market as young people's fiction, so he became acquainted with the genre and reads and enjoys many books recommended to him by other authors in his new field. He also has a month where he does nearly no reading and cheerfully admits it, because the World Cup was being played and his days were full of football, and another month the editors ask him to write about the movies he's seen, which means in Hornby's case watched on DVD since he is the father of small children and has little time to go out. The title of the book comes his review of James Shapiro's 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, the year in which the bard finished Henry V, wrote Julius Caesar and As You Like It and starts the draft for Hamlet. I sometimes get the suspicion that the incredibly talented have these remarkable bursts of productivity just to annoy the 99.999% of humanity that has less talent. Hornby may agree with me, as he writes "I was partly attracted to Shapiro's book because I'd had a similarly productive 2006 - although, unlike Shakespeare, I'm more interested in quality than quantity, possibly because I've got one eye on posterity."

The Wordy Shipmates follows the travails of the passengers of the Arbella, the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Vowell chooses John Winthrop as her main focus, and details his many conflicts with his fellow Puritans and the local native tribes, most notably the Pequot, Narragansett and Mohegan. Vowell understands that most Americans' understanding of the English settlers of New England is "first thankgiving, blah blah blah, Salem witch hunts". This book is designed to give more form and substance to the blah blah blah part.

Winthrop, a layman, writes a sermon entitled "A Model of Christian Charity", which is best known today as the source of the "city on a hill" metaphor used by Reagan's speechwriter. The Massachusetts Bay Company's official seal depicts a native saying "Come and Help Us". Vowell, who was born and raised in Oklahoma and has Cherokee ancestry, has a pretty good idea how that "help" will manifest itself. One of the three aforementioned tribes is effectively erased from the faced of the earth by the English settlers under Winthrop's Christian reign.

The disagreements with other settlers described in Vowell's book are nearly all about Christian doctrine. The Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock were separatists, wanting nothing to do with England, but the Puritans of Massachusetts want to "purify" the Church of England, not divorce themselves from it. While disagreements arise with many people, Roger Williams is a major thorn in Winthrop's side. Williams is major troublemaker in Massachusetts, and is finally banished to Rhode Island, where as governor he makes a law that gives all who live there the freedom from government interference in their religious practices. Vowell makes it clear that the view of Williams as a proto-Jefferson is not correct. Williams is happy to make sure the government can't banish you for believing in something different from what he believes, but he is convinced that those who disagree with him will be banished to hell by God when the time comes.

At the end of the book, Anne Hutchinson, the second major irritant to Winthrop, becomes a central character. Like Williams before her, she is banished from Massachusetts Bay because of religious differences with the ruling counsel. Unlike Williams, whose doctrine was harsh and social skills weak, Hutchinson was a threat because she was far too popular, and she had the support of James Cotton, the most prominent preacher in the colony. While Williams wrote many sermons and pamphlets which survive, Hurchinson's work does not survive, so we only have her words at her trial and the record of her achievements. Vowell, who is not herself religious, is fascinated by the doctrinal debates and chooses sides, though she clearly is not ready to become part of any of the congregations lead by any of the characters in her book. Her own relationship with religion came to a crossroads when attending church as a child eight times a week meant missing the start of Charlie's Angels, and in her case, the better coiffed angels of her nature won.

I heartily recommend both of these books, quick reads, entertaining and informative. The next book I will be carrying on BART is Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan, which was recommended to me by my old high school buddy Steve Lilley.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Welcome back to freedom, such as it is.

President Obama has made several quick moves to rescind executive orders first enacted by George W. Bush. Among the highlights are the order to close Guantanamo Bay, the allowing of more stem cell research in the United States, the end of the "global gag rule" which had prevented medical professionals getting U.S. funding around the world from even telling patients about abortion, and getting rid of the rule that prevents states from setting tougher emission standards than set by the federal government.

The last of those orders is interesting to me, because it shows a shift in conservative thinking in my lifetime. "States rights" was a big favorite of the conservative movement back in the day, back when it meant "don't interfere in how we turn some of our citizens into second class citizens". Clearly, the conservative movement is now much more interested in "corporate rights", and the reason for this change is as simple to understand as reading a donor list. In the 21st Century, "moderate Republican" means someone who is not completely in the tank for corporate polluters, as is shown by Gov. Schwarzenegger being one of the first people to ask Obama to lift the restrictions on the states.

I'm 100% confident I'm not going to like some of Obama's decisions, but it is nice to feel as though my government is not habitually heading in the wrong direction on 99.9% of the issues, which was the case with Bush and his cronies. It is going to take some getting used to.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Starring Miss Arlene Dahl

Blog buddy sfmike, sole author and proprietor of Civic Center, the wonderful website about San Francisco arts and politics, has become a well-known man about town through his blog, and invited me to the second evening of the Noir City Film Festival, a two week celebration of film noir classics now in its seventh year. The films shown at the wonderful Castro Theatre, one of the few art deco palaces is still used for its original purpose of showing fims and not split into two screens or more. Eddie Muller, the founder of the festival, gave Mike a press pass to the event, and he graciously invited me to see Saturday evening's films and have a chance to meet the wonderful Arlene Dahl.

Mr. Muller has done a bang up job of making Noir City an exciting event, and the crowds come out in droves. The lines were long on this chilly January night, but we could get a schedule of the festival handed out to the crowds by junior high aged young girls dressed as newsies shouting "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" Mr. Muller also has had great success in getting the glamourous stars of the films to show up in person, and last night it was Ms. Dahl's turn to get the Noir City treatment. She lives in New York City, where she and her much younger husband (scandalous!) are fixtures in the society page, but she graciously traveled across the country to our humble little hamlet to the delight of her legions of fans. The crowd got to see her both at the intermission and I was lucky enough to be there when her limosine pulled up before the film began and see her make her entrance before an adoring throng. It was a magical Hollywood moment.

Miss Dahl, a classic Nordic beauty, spent much of her career in comedies and musicals, but in the films aired this evening, we saw another, more sinister side to her. The first film was the 1957 drama Wicked As They Come, so as you might guess, Miss Dahl was not playing a cloistered nun. Her character was as beautiful as a priceless ruby but as tough as the gristle on a two bit steak. She uses men and throws them away, as God obviously intended, but she has a hard time throwing away the impossibly hunky Phillip Carey. There are twists, turns and at least one dead body, but in the end, the two lovely love birds at the top of the bill realize they were meant for one another.

As one might expect, a guy with Carey's good looks was destined for the soap operas, and the Internet Movie Database informs up he was on One Live To Live for decades. West coasters of a certain age might also remember him from commercials for Granny Goose potato chips, an outfit out of Oakland that fought hard to stay on supermarket shelves, but finally succumbed to the Frito-Lay juggernaut.

But of course, the evening belonged to Miss Dahl, though there was also an appearance by Miss Noir 2009, the young lady pointing a revolver and her cleavage at you in the poster at the top of the page. I have to say that when she isn't packing heat, she seems a very pleasant young woman.

Matty Boy, don't the women in these kinds of films go through guys like Kleenex?

Hypothetical question asker, you are far too cynical. I'm sure the interest she showed in me was genuine after I told her about the fabulous fortune I stand to inherit.

Again, thanks to sfmike for inviting me to this great event. I had a wonderful time at the movie and also enjoyed spending the afternoon hanging out and shooting the breeze. The festival runs until February 1 at the Castro, and the prints of the films they show, some rarely seen, are in impeccable shape. Hats off to Mr. Muller for his stellar work on creating and growing this event, obviously a labor of love.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Questions for the Academy

Several of my blog buddies have already weighed in on the Academy Award nominations, including dguzman and Dr. Monkey. Like them, I haven't seen every last movie nominated, but living in the big city, I have seen a few more than they have. I know I am of a minority opinion on two nominated films. Slumdog Millionaire is a truly miserable filmgoing experience and The Dark Knight was a loud, dull, lousy excuse for a superhero movie and sadly, Heath Ledger's last performance was not one of his best. Years ago, it was only the cruel that pointed out that John Lennon's last album Double Fantasy was not very good. That is now the conventional wisdom. Similarly, many people now agree that giving Dances With Wolves so many awards when it was competing against Goodfellas was a moment of temporary cultural stupidity. A decade from now, I think people will feel the same about the praise for The Dark Knight. The best superhero movie this year was Iron Man, hands down.

Here are a few questions for the Academy, based on films I have seen.

So what was Haaz Sleiman's work, chopped liver? Tom McCarthy's film The Visitor garnered a Best Actor nomination for Richard Jenkins (foreground), a really good film actor who was the father on HBO's Six Feet Under and had a small role in the Coen Brothers Burn After Reading. Compared to the other nominees, he's the "Who dat?" guy, but compared to the rest of the cast of The Visitor, he's the big star. He gives a very good and understated performance, but the guy who does the heavy lifting is Haaz Sleiman, the guy smiling and looking towards the camera. Like Tim Blake Nelson in O Brother Where Art Thou?, Sleiman's work in a supporting role is the center of the film, and like Nelson, the Academy decided it wasn't worth even a nomination. Both these snubs are to the Academy's eternal discredit.

Seriously, what is wrong with comedy and what is wrong with the Academy? Robert Downey, Jr. is nominated for putting on black face in Tropic Thunder, the Ben Stiller comedy. When I first saw the posters, I thought "WTF?", but I saw the movie and both the film and Downey were funny, though sometimes he lays on the black dialect so thick it's hard to make out what he's saying. The idea is that he is a highly regarded Australian actor who is really full of himself (sound like anyone we know?) who is given the role of a black American soldier and takes it. The thing is, this movie doesn't aim any higher than most American comedies right now, which means lots of drug jokes, bodily functions and profanity. If Downey gets nominated for this, then Christopher Mintz-Plasse was robbed last year for his work as McLovin in Superbad.

Okay, could someone please define "Supporting"? Doubt produced four acting nominations, all of them richly deserved. Meryl Streep was nominated as Best Actress and she was fantastic, while Philip Seymour Hoffman was nominated as Best Supporting Actor when he has nearly as much screen time as she does and clearly the two characters are the protagonist and antagonist of the story. Hoffman and Streep are even close to the same level of movie star right now, especially in the independent film category. The other two nominations, Amy Adams and Viola Davis, are in the Supporting Actress category, and they show how difficult to define the category is as well. Adams deserves third billing as the yong nun who wants to believe the best about people and does a bang up job, while Davis has one, count 'em ONE scene. She's remarkably moving in the scene, completely holding her own opposite Streep, but like Judi Dench who won for Shakespeare in Love, her screen time is tiny compared to other nominees.

There were five documentaries better than these? I have already written reviews of Chris Bell's Bigger, Stronger, Faster and Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure. They were among the best 2008 films I saw, bar none. I haven't seen any of the nominated films in the documentary category, though I have heard good things about Man On Wire, the story of Philippe Petit's illegal 1974 high wire act between the two towers of the World Trade Center. I would have nominated both of these without question.

Bell and Morris could not be more different. This is the film Bell was born to make because of his closeness to the subject matter. Maybe he will make another film this good in the future, and if so I will be pleasantly surprised. Morris, on the other hand, is the best documentary film maker of the past thirty years hands down, but has had as contentious a relationship with the Academy as Martin Scorsese has had as a maker of fiction films. Morris has one Oscar for The Fog of War, but was famously snubbed for the film The Thin Blue Line. He can console himself with the knowledge that The Thin Blue Line helped to get an innocent man off of Death Row in Texas.

The center of the disagreement with the documentary film makers is that Morris will film re-enactments of action that an interviewed person is describing, and the documentarians think this is cheating. As a person watching, I've never been confused as to when something was actual footage and something was a re-enactment in a Morris film, but it clearly bothers the purists in charge.

I'm old enough now that I'm no longer confused by the Academy Awards. These aren't the best films or the best performances, but the films the industry wants to present to the public, films torn between the desire to make ungodly amounts of money and to make moving and interesting art. Nowadays, they have to throw in more than a few independent films, which used to be token nominations, because so much of the moneymaking machine in Hollywood is creating big budget special effects crap, monster movies and horribly stupid comedies. But these aren't the best movies or the best performances. It helps to have friends whose opinions you trust, even if you disagree with them from time to time, because it's obvious the people who run the Academy are no one's friends.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Look Around You

As I have mentioned before, I have become one of the least loyal TV watchers on the planet over the past few years. There are only two shows I make time for whenever there's a new episode, and both those shows, Mad Men and The Venture Brothers, are currently between seasons. I have some hopes for Joss Whedon's new show Dollhouse and the NBC drama Kings, both of which will start soon, but who knows how long I will stay with them.

Right now, Adult Swim, which is the name given to the Cartoon Network shows that air from about 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., has started airing a BBC import called Look Around You. The shows are only nine minutes long, but that isn't a problem for Adult Swim, which has several shows that fill fifteen minute slots, usually eleven minutes of show and four minutes of commercials.

Look Around You is a science program, done in a cheesy 1980s production style, though the programs were actually made this decade. It's reminiscent of the kind of film strips we watched in class way back in the 1960s. The only difference (or is it a difference?) is that almost everything they tell you on Look Around You is wrong.

I watched the first two episodes last week, and I will make time to see the next two this week, even though it means getting up at some ungodly hour. I have embedded an episode about water, which is available on The You Tubes. If you like it, you should try others. I find it wonderfully silly. Your mileage may vary.

Random 10, 1/23

Cult of Personality Living Colour
Caroline Kirsty MacColl
So Long, Mom Tom Lehrer
Hooray for Love Ella Fitzgerald
Semaphore Signals Wreckless Eric
Eloise (Hang On In There) William Bell
Brandenburg Concerto #1, Adagio (J.S. Bach) Neues Bachishes Collegium Musicum
Strange Ones Supergrass
Jesus Gonna Be Here Tom Waits
Washboard Blues Hoagy Carmichael

The Random DJ on my computer shows a little right wing snarkiness to open the set. Living Colour's Cult of Personality included references to Stalin, Mussolini, Kennedy and Gandhi, and while the band did that to make people think, some right wingers think those people belong in the same sentence already. Then there's a song about a broken hearted woman named Caroline, apropos of today's headlines, then a song about World War III, which is going to start sometime in March or April if you listen to Fox News.

Another eight out of ten songs show up on The You Tubes, missing only Ella Fitzgerald and William Bell. As for the inevitable Padre Mickey influence, I wouldn't have known about Stiff Records except for meeting the Good Padre, so that includes Kirsty MacColl and Wreckless Eric, and he also first introduced me to Supergrass, a cheerful and cheeky British trio with obvious influences from the Beatles and the Ramones. I will say in defense of my own musical tastes before meeting Padre Mickey that I already knew about Tom Waits, so the fact that both of us place him high in the pantheon is due to us both being right thinking Americans.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Learning to read and learning to have opinions

I learned to read at a very young age and I got good at it quickly. The person most responsible for this is my mom, who read to me a lot and answered a lot of what must have been my jillion questions. The topic that turned me into a reader was dinosaurs. My parents bought me many picture books about dinosaurs, as well as about the extinct creatures from the Age of Mammals and books about living creatures and I read them again and again. Wanting to know more about dinosaurs turned me into a competent and confident reader, largely because even the shortest names for dinosaurs are three and four syllable words, so I was not afraid of big words from the very beginning. By the time I was four, I could tell the differences between a brachiosaurus and a diplodocus and a brontosaurus and a camarasaurus fairly easily.

This picture is a camarasaurus. You can tell by the shape of the head and it's not quite as big or thick through the body as a brachiosaurus.

I mean, duh!

It was a while before I developed a taste for books that had no pictures in them, but when I started kindergarten, I was able to read the books the school assigned to fourth graders.

Thanks, mom!

The school was very impressed and wanted to skip me a bunch of grades, but my mom was worried about how I would fit in, so the compromise was that I skipped only one grade.

Again, good call, mom!

Given my love of books with pictures in them, it was only natural that I started reading comic books. My mom was worried that her precious little prodigy was wasting time reading such nonsense, but I wasn't forbidden, so I read them just as avidly as I read anything else that had text and pictures. I distinctly remember that the first comic book I bought cost twelve cents, and that my older brother Michael complained bitterly when the price went from a dime to twelve cents, as I would grumble in my turn when they jumped to fifteen cents a few years later when I was an avid reader.

I mean, it gets hard to stretch the allowance with this kind of inflation.

I've been looking at the publication dates on the Internets for comics I distinctly remember reading, so I must have been plowing through these things when I was no older than five or six, and they must have belonged to my brother and to older kids in the neighborhood. These early tomes lead me to my first literary opinion.

There was a difference between DC Comics and Marvel Comics, and the difference was DC Comics sucked.

Lemme 'splain.

I started reading comics in about 1961, when I was five, and I gladly read anything available. Superman, Archie, Little Lulu, Fantastic Four, Uncle Scrooge, what have you... you put a comic book in front of me and I was out of your hair for a good fifteen minutes to a half hour, except if I ran into a new vocabulary word I couldn't suss out. (I'm hazy on this memory, but either my dad or my mom showed me how a dictionary worked very early, clearly an act of self defense.) Li'l Matty Boy "got" the idea that the stuff in comic books aren't real, just as I "got" that dinosaurs and wooly mammoths weren't around any more, but tapirs and blue whales were. (And let's hope it stays that way.)

So though I might have read as well as a nine year old is supposed to read, I still had all the emotions of a five year old. Coleridge gets credit for the phrase "willing suspension of disbelief", an odd skill that is necessary for people to enjoy fiction, but that isn't a good description of the emotions of little kids. They have no disbelief to suspend, until they get tricked a few times.

Here is the cover of the comic book that started my disgust with DC Comics. "The Death of Superman", Superman #149, published in 1961. In the caption at the lower left it tells us that it is "an imaginary novel", but I didn't know what that meant when I was five, so I plowed right through. I was devastated. Lex Luthor killed Superman! What were they gonna do next month? I cried and carried on, until my brother Michael explained what imaginary meant, and I was at least consolable. But I experienced an amazing number of epiphanies through this experience.

1. There were levels of imaginary. This was an imaginary story that didn't really take place in what I already understood to be an imaginary world.

2. There were these people called writers, and some of them you just couldn't trust. There were "good writers" and "bad writers", and the experience of reading a bad writer could be just as miserable as drinking sour milk or eating a stale cookie.

3. There were things called plot devices, and if you noticed them while you were reading, that was probably because they weren't very good.

DC Comics in the early sixties was running out of ideas at a scary rate, and I have to wonder if they didn't have some kind of "Old Switcheroo" dartboard in their office. Let's have Superman lose his powers and everybody else get powers! Let's have Perry White as a cub reporter! Let's make up some new color of Kryptonite (a.k.a. CheapPlotDevice-tonite) that does something new, goofy and non-lethal to Superman. (There was one rule to the stuff, as far as I could tell. Only green Kryptonite was lethal.) I devoted multiple brain cells to cataloging the different colors of Kryptonite, just as I could tell the differences between different sauropods in my books or different songbirds in the fields around my house, until I figured out Kryptonite was both imaginary and lame.

Were the switcheroos and Kryptonite the only weak plot devices in DC Comics? No, hypothetical question asker, they were not.

Don't even get me started on Mr. Mxyztplk. Or Bat Mite. Or that Green Lantern's completely limitlessly powerful magical ring won't work on anything yellow. Or any of the incredible, lame, stupid, extra powers Superman would turn out to have if the plot required them, thankfully cataloged by our friends over at Superdickery.

DC Comics didn't stay this lame for the entire half century that has passed since they successfully disgusted me, but I still have this lingering distrust of them.

And so concludes this little trip down memory lane... wait, I see a hand up. Hypothetical, do you have a question?

Matty Boy? I was wondering... am I just a cheap plot device?

Hypothetical question asker, how can you say such a thing? Of course not! You're a vital and integral part of the Lotsa 'Splainin' team. Let's not have any more talk like that.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday Math, Vol. 57: Second thoughts on math education

Last week, I started my series of posts on what math skills I would like to see taught to all high school students, the kinds of things I think should be on a reasonable exit exam. Last week, I wrote about differently stated problems and seeing the similarities. This is an important part of mathematical literacy, also known as numeracy. This week, I'd like to discuss the kind of real life word problems people should be able to handle as a result of a math education rooted in basic skills and applications.

Scenario: There is a driver who fills the tank on every visit to the gas station and then restarts the trip odometer. On this particular day, the trip odometer reads 273.4 miles before the gas is pumped and it takes 9.233 gallons to fill the tank.

1. How many miles per gallon did the car travel on average during this trip? Give the answer rounded to the nearest mile, and rounded to the nearest tenth of a mile.

2. Given these numbers, how many gallons of gas does it take to travel 100 miles on average? Give the answer to the nearest gallon and the nearest tenth of a gallon.

3. If the driver buys gas costing $1.959 per gallon, how much did the gas cost to the nearest penny? If the driver opted for the gas costing $2.099 instead, what is the total cost to the nearest penny? What is the difference between the two totals? What is the percentage difference?

4. The driver has a round trip mileage from home to work of 41.2 miles per day, and works five days a week. What is the cost of gas for these trips each week to the nearest penny, assuming the gas mileage stays the same as the numbers given in the original scenario and the cost of gas is steady at $1.959 per gallon. What was the cost last year when gas was $3.499 per gallon?

5. The driver works 50 weeks a year, and on average in those weeks worked, there are ten holidays. How many miles does the driver drive the car to work in an average month?

6. Trip from home to work took 25 minutes on Monday, and the trip from work back home took 33 minutes. What was the average speed on the trip in? What was the average speed on the trip home? What is the average speed for both trips combined? If these times are typical, how much time does the driver spend going to and coming from work in an average month, written as x hours and y minutes?

Being a math person, I don't think of these problems as particularly difficult. I am not interested in setting a super high standard for graduating from high school. From what I can see, this just adds to the dropout rate. I do expect universities to set higher standards than this for admission, but the overall question I am trying to get a handle on here is what mathematical skill set should we expect from people who will be workers, consumers and citizens in a modern industrialized society.

In Matty Boy's dream world, I wouldn't just ask these questions of a bunch of nervous 18 year olds, but showing literacy and numeracy would be a requirement for citizenship. I know that literacy tests have a bad and racist history, so I wouldn't make the prize for passing a test like this every five or ten years the continued right to vote. Maybe proof of numeracy and literacy could be worth a tax credit.

Just an idea. Since a lot of people already understand that lotteries are a tax on people who are bad at math, maybe the government could give some small bonus to people who keep their math skills sharp.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Any special plans?

I know a few people who are in Washington, D.C. today. My high school friend Steve Lilley, who I hung out with on election night, is going in on a bus from Cleveland with his wife Linda. Blog buddy Mathman is the chaperone for a high school band from Georgia performing during the festivities.

My own plans aren't nearly as fancy, but this is the first time in my life that anyone has ever invited me to come over and celebrate an inauguration. The person who invited me is my rock-ribbed Republican father, so I'll be going over to his place tonight to watch the speech. I'll be bringing cheeses.

To be clear, my rock-ribbed Republican father likes to call himself a Lincoln Republican now, though having done the math, I'm pretty sure he didn't actually vote for Lincoln. He is not now nor has he ever been a Bushie. I know some Bush supporters through work, but I've never broken bread with any to the best of my knowledge.

Anybody else got something special planned?

Monday, January 19, 2009

A special day to remember him.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction....The chain reaction of evil--hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars--must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength To Love, 1963.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The mystery of the farting Martians.

Scientists have recently verified sporadic methane plumes on Mars. Methane is usually created by living organisms or from gas leaking from coal deposits. Coal deposits are often created by fossils, so this increases the odds that there either is life on Mars now or there was in the past.

But a friendly word of advice. If a Martian asks you to pull his finger?


Being sentimental on a Sunday

This isn't the funniest lolz I've seen in months, but this puppeh has coloring very much like my childhood pet Johann.

Immediate fambly members will concur that Johann was just about the best dog ever in the history of canines.

Though I will admit that I am biased because I loved him so.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sidney Reilly, the mystery continues

I've finished watching the last DVD of the 1980s TV series Reilly Ace of Spies, and the show was good viewing from beginning to end. The only bonus feature was a short biographical film about Reilly from this century based on a book published only a few years ago. The upshot of watching the bonus extra is this.

A lot of what you just watched about the life of Sidney Reilly probably isn't true.

The original TV show is based on a book by Robin Lockhart, a British diplomat who worked with Reilly in Russia. Lockhart had actual conversations with Reilly and others who knew him as the source for his book, and that may be the problem. Reilly was a habitual liar, especially about his own exploits. The more recent work of biography gets into the documents available about the things that happened, and Reilly's accounts are in many cases at least embellished and in some cases, probably flat out lies.

Do not let that stop you from enjoying the show, because it is very enjoyable as a drama.

It's the trivia fan in me that enjoys spotting actors I've seen in other TV shows and movies in the cast of a big production like this, and if you enjoy British mystery shows, there are several familiar faces in recurring roles in Reilly Ace of Spies. I brought up in an earlier post about the series that David Suchet, who went on to play Poirot on TV, showed up in a pivotal role for a single episode. Other actors on British mystery shows have recurring roles. On the left, Tom Bell, who plays the hateful weasel Bill Otley in the Helen Mirren vehicle Prime Suspect, plays the even more hateful Felix Derzhinsky, head of the Cheka, which would become the KGB in later years. In the center, we have a picture of David Burke as Dr. Watson from the TV series that starred Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. Burke wore a convincing black wig and a not so convincing bushy mustache to play Joseph Stalin in Reilly. On the right, Hugh Fraser, who played Poirot's sidekick Hastings opposite David Suchet, shows up in several episodes as the British intelligence agent Hill in this mini-series.

A little trivia game I like to play with a big cast like this is to ask what actor I recognize has the smallest part. While there are several actors who go on to other work in TV and movies who are in only one episode of Reilly, Alfred Molina would have to get the nod as the most recognizable face with the smallest part. Unlike some of the other actors, Molina's career isn't confined to British TV, as he became a bona fide movie star. But in Reilly, Molina gets one, count 'em, one scene. It's a good scene and his character is essential to moving the plot along, but it's amusing to see such a big future star getting such a tiny part.*

*Side note: My favorite tiny part by a future star is in The Graduate. Richard Dreyfuss pokes his head in a doorway and has one line. "You want me to call the cops? I'll call the cops." My second favorite is a young Charles Bronson getting a few scenes as second thug from the right in the Tracy-Hepburn comedy Pat and Mike. In the comments, CDP points out another tiny role for a future movie star, and possibly the quintessential example, Robert Duvall beautifully underplaying Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The best show on TV? In what alternate universe?

There are a lot of people who really like the new version of Battlestar Galactica. Some of these people I know personally, and others have opinions I usually respect, like S.F. Chronicle reviewer Tim Goodman.

Let me say this as nicely as possible. These people have lost their frakking minds.

I gave up on the show in the first or second season because I found it too unremittingly downbeat and the art direction was too drab, with every scene overwhelmed by shades of grey. This evening, the final ten episodes began, so I thought I'd check in to see how things have progressed. The shots are still all grey, and as for downbeat, this makes an Eastern European animation festival seem festive.

I am not anti-sci-fi or fantasy. I have plenty of nerd street cred. I watched Buffy and Angel and Babylon 5 and some but not all of the Star Trek franchises. I watched Farscape to the end and stuck with Xena:Warrior Princess for longer than I care to admit. I'm not completely against dark stories. I have several friends and family members who couldn't stick with The Wire or Mad Men because the stories were too depressing. I can understand that. These are acquired tastes.

I don't blame the cast. As always, if a show is good or bad, it starts with the writers. Like with almost all sci-fi casts, there are plenty of attractive young stars for eye candy and good veteran actors for gravitas, but that's not enough to keep me interested. I gave up on Heroes very early and got bored with Lost in the second or third season, and there are plenty of superfine honeys in both of those casts.

Like with the critical raves surrounding Slumdog Millionaire, I have to wonder if the world's gone nuts or I'm just getting too old and cranky. Because I have, how shall I put it delicately, a healthy self-image, I'm going to go with the premise that I'm right and the world is wrong.

You may have a friend who will try to get you hooked on the new Battlestar Galactica. He or she may tell you it is much better than the original, and on that point I would agree. This is not cornball stuff. But I advise you not to waste your time, and you have to consider the possibility that your friend is actually a Cylon.

Interesting graphic representation

This is a two page spread from the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly cataloging the progress, or lack of same, of lots of haphazardly chosen stuff from 2000 to today, though some of the "current" stats are from 2007 or 2006. Some things showed improvement. For instance, there are less wars now than in 2000, but they don't give any idea of how many people died in those wars in the respective years. CEOs are being paid less now, though I don't know if bonus pay is factored in. Apple has had a good century so far. GM, not so much.

It's definitely worth a click on the picture to get the bigger, more readable view. Let me know what stands out to you in the comments.

Random 10 (sort of), 1/16

Sensitive Artist King Missile
Almost Blue Elvis Costello & the Attractions
Two Sleepy People Fats Waller
Sinnerman Nina Simone
Jimmy Jazz The Clash
Overture/Going Through the Motions Sarah Michelle Gellar, with Dancing Demon Chorus
The Moment Matthew Hubbard
Hide Away Folk Family They Might Be Giants
Bulgarian Rhapsody Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares
Pain In My Heart Otis Redding

The thing that makes this week's list only sort of random is that I chose the starting tune, in honor of a post earlier this week by my blog buddy CDP over at (parenthetical). She was talking about taking it down because she thought it was too snarky, but I promised if she kept it up, I would link to it with my Friday Random 10, and she did keep it up, which is great because it is HIGH-larious.

She's really good at this prose stuff.

Eight our of ten over on The YouTubes, which isn't bad given that one is a song by that Matthew Hubbard guy who is just too snooty to put his stuff on such a public forum. I think he might be one of those sensitive artist types. Some of the recordings are recorded too hot and get distorted, but still, eight out of ten. Good strong list, many musical styles. I know dguzman will be happy to see a song from the Buffy musical episode, as will many of my family members. I could have put on a bonus track as I sometimes do, but no one wants to go on stage after Otis Redding.

(Art by V. Van Gogh, caption technology by I Can Has Cheezburger, gag stolen from the late great cartoonist B. Kliban.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On being the unofficial envoy of My People

The internets is a funny old place. I never really intended for a post way back when to become a regular feature, but as anyone who reads my blog know, very little that is done here is intentional. Things kinda just happen, and I get into a routine (or rut, if you prefer) and suddenly something is a regular or semi-regular feature. Wednesday Math, Random 10 Friday, and about twice a month or so, a post about giant women.

A while back, some PonyPal™ I hadn't met before, and who shall remain anonymous, was reading my snarky comments over on Princess Sparkle Pony, and decided to stop by Lotsa 'Splainin' through the link the Princess graciously provides. This nice person read enough of my posts to find out about My People and Our Agenda, and when she saw this picture at the online gallery of an artist named Ria Hills, she naturally thought of me. Ms. Hills made this mock-up of a proposed painting, which she hasn't completed yet, called "Scopophilia", which was Freud's fancy named for the love of looking, known to most of us as voyeurism. I wrote to Ms. Hills and she graciously allowed me to post the picture, which comes in a larger version you can see if you click on it.

Once again I remind my gentle readers. This is art and not just smut for weirdos! That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

And also again, thanks to everyone who made this post possible, the Princess, the gentle reader and the artist.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Justice, slightly delayed

It comes two weeks after the fact, but Johannes Mehserle, the transit cop who shot Oscar Grant III in the back when Grant was lying face down with his hands behind him, has been charged with murder and arrested in Nevada. Mehserle is not fighting extradition.

There is a protest currently taking place in Oakland, but I've only seen one helicopter in the air and police sirens are not any more prevalent than on a usual night in Oakland. I don't expect this to be a repeat of the trial of cops accused of beating Rodney King, partly because Oscar Grant was not merely beaten but killed when he had surrendered and was defenseless, and partly because Oakland is not Los Angeles.

That said, I have been wrong before. I don't look forward to being in Oakland if I'm wrong this time.

Wednesday Math, Vol. 56: First thoughts on math education

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to talk about math education. The question I have been thinking about is what we should expect in terms of mathematical knowledge from high school graduates. Many states have exit tests from high school now, and most of these tests go up through Algebra II or some other set standard. Personally, I think most of the standards I've seen set are too high. Students who are going on to college need to know that much and probably more, but what is a reasonable standard for all high school graduates, including those who don't plan to go to college? What kinds of things should be known by citizens of a democracy and workers and consumers in a modern economy?

I'd like to see a basic educational framework that focuses on numeracy, a word coined in the late 1950s as the mathematical version of literacy. One place I'd like to start is to take the fear out of word problems and to make them more practical.

Here's an example.

1. Solve x^2 - 10x + 21 = 0.

2. Find two numbers whose sum is 10 and whose product is 21.

3. You have 10 feet of fencing to make a pen for chickens that needs to enclose 21 square feet of floor space, and you can use the corner of a rectangular barn as the back wall and left wall of the enclosure. How long and wide should the pen be?

What I would like to see from high school graduates is not just the ability to solve these problems, but the understanding that these are really three statements of the exact same problem. The first time it is stated algebraically, the second time colloquially and the third time in the form of a word problem.

What do you think should be the standard for high school graduates in the 21st Century? Clearly, what I have stated here isn't the only thing I'd like them to know, but I think it is a good example of level of competence I'd like to see.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Just a gentle reminder...

If you haven't visited Superdickery recently, there may be golden nuggets you have not yet seen.

Fictional followers on Twitter

So I've been on Twitter for about two weeks now, and I only use it sporadically. It's best utilized by people who like to text, and that really isn't me. The company has disabled the TRACK function, which is too bad. During an ongoing news story, you can find out things that are going on in real time by typing TRACK Mumbai or TRACK Gaza or even TRACK Oakland during the demonstrations and riots from last week. Of course, you have to sift through a lot of stuff if you do this.

So for right now, I get to find out what's going on with Splotchy and CDP and a few other folks when they decide to put something up on Twitter, but like me, these are not people addicted to texting, which I'm convinced is actually a good thing.

Anyone can ask to follow anyone they want, though the person being followed has the right to block the follower if they so choose. Last week, I read news about the TV show Mad Men, one of the few shows I watch regularly. The third season will begin airing this summer, but AMC has still not come to terms with the show's creator Matt Weiner. I posted a tweet about this, and apparently someone was watching at just the right time. While you cannot TRACK, you can read EVERYONE, which gives you the last fifteen tweets or so from the entire system. Because I wrote about Mad Men once on Twitter, someone named bettydraper from Ossining, NY in 1962 started following my posts there. I glanced over her stuff, and it was clear it was someone writing in the character of Betty, the blond pictured on the right. This is either an obsessed fan or someone being paid to do this by the show's creators as a marketing tool, and I expect it's the latter because of how well the messages stay true to Betty's character on the show. I decided to block bettydraper. A few days later, I am being followed by peggyolson, the auburned haired woman on the left. Again, it's someone writing in character, typing the things Peggy Olson, up and coming copywriter, would type in 1962, but magically connected to the 21st Century technology in 2009.

I haven't decided exactly if I find this clever or creepy, but it's an interesting marketing ploy. Since I asked a Grace Kelly lookalike to stop following me, I'm obviously leaning towards creepy. I hope whoever is typing in tweets as bettydraper and peggyolson are getting paid for their work, because whether it's 1962 or 2009, every dollar counts.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Google giveth and the Google taketh away.

In December 2007, viewership here at Lotsa 'Splainin' effectively doubled, though not through any particular change in what I did. What happened instead was that Google decided to put my blog up near the top of several searches for images. When people wanted pictures of lolzcats or Eli and Peyton Manning or Alyssa Milano or tuataras, Google recommended a stop over at Lotsa 'Splainin', though I might not have many pictures of these things. For example, asking for lolz gave more pictures from my blog than from I Can Has Cheezburger, which I will be the first to admit is just plain wrong. Even though I actually make many of the lolz that now show up on my blog, I use the free software that Cheezburger graciously provides.

In December 2008, this blog fell out of favor with the Google as a place to go for images, and viewership went down. Again, I never planned to make this a blog about Alyssa Milano or tuataras, so the lack of folks looking for them doesn't bother me that much.

Well, fair is fair, but in one case, I must protest to the gods of Google. If you type Indira Varma, and search for images, this blog is nowhere to be found. That is just plain wrong. When I started this blog, and I couldn't think of anything to write, I found a picture of Indira Varma and published it. I bow to no man, yea verily I bow to no monkey either, in my place among the worshipers of Ms. Varma's lovely collarbone, and the rest of the loveliness attached to it. As proof, I give you this picture of Ms. Varma and her Rome co-star Kevin Kidd, who I suppose is pretty enough in his own right, to show that my obsessive compulsion with her has not swayed or wavered.

Gods of Google, I beseech thee! Hook a brother up! She even has her own label here, for pity's sake.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

So what's up with this Legend of the Seeker show?

Good question, hypothetical!

On my local cable provider, the syndicated show Legend of the Seeker plays multiple times every weekend on at least three different channels. The multiple channel thing isn't that rare, as Stargate-SG1 and Farscape also play on several channels that rely on syndicated shows to fill in the many hours a week these channels have to broadcast. The difference is that I actually know something about those other two cheesy shows, and so far, Legend of the Seeker is the mystery cheese.

Foraging around on the Internets, I have found out that the show is a sword and sorcery epic, which on TV means bodices and broadswords. The bodice shown here belongs to the heroine, a good sorceress called a Confessor and the buff guy in the foreground is the hero, a mighty magical warrior called The Seeker. It's another show shot in New Zealand by the folks who brought us Hercules and Xena, so you have a rough idea of the production values, which is to say the production values are rough, but the scenery and people are pretty.

Flipping past this weekend's episode, there appear to be a powerful cadre of priestesses called the Mord'Sith (wherever do they get these clever and original names?) who dress all in tight leather and have these special pain sticks. I don't know exactly why I bring this up, though I thought it might be of interest to a couple of simians who sometimes stop by this humble blog.

If anyone has watched this thing and has an actual opinion, I would be glad to hear it.

Yay, Flag of Many Lands™! Yay, Liechtenstein!

This is only my second postage stamp sized European country that has sent a visitor, Monaco being the first. Why would someone from Liechtenstein come to this humble blog? It appears that this person is one of My People. Might I recommend to my new Central European friend a visit to neighboring Austria, which may or may not be a land run by giant women.

And, of course, let me close by saying Wilkommen!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Respect for my babies today

No time for blogging, as Dr. Zaius' most famous quote goes. Today is the start of another orgy of professional football, and my mathy/sporty blog Unified Football Theory got all my bloggy attention today. There are four games this weekend, so there is a point spread and an under/over on each game for a total of eight proposition for wagering. I have an opinion on seven of the eight propositions, opinionated bastid that I am.

And my first baby is back up and running! The folks at Cal State East Bay fixed the server that houses Pascal's Triangle From Top to Bottom, my very, very mathy website about the binomial coefficients. I've definitely put in more hours on Lotsa 'Splainin', but I poured more blood and sweat into my first website, given how much research and Java programming was involved. I am still very proud of it and I hope it's up for good now.

Thanks to Richard Uhler at Cal State East Bay for getting this puppy back online.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Random 10+1, 1/9

Yakety Yak The Coasters
Just As I Thought William Bell
Fiction Romance The Buzzcocks (NSFW)
Feeling Good Nina Simone
I Want You Back Jackson 5
Secondary Modern Elvis Costello & the Attractions
Walk Right Back The Everly Brothers
Moondance Van Morrison
Simple Thought Joshua Macrae
Tomorrow Never Knows The Beatles
The Body of an American The Pogues

Eleven from the iTunes and eight from the YouTubes, not bad odds. I would say my nephew Joshua would be the most obscure artist on the list, but he's up on The You Tubes as of late last month, while William Bell is not well represented. Bell is my favorite discovered artist from the Stax/Volt singles box set released sometime last decade.

The Elvis song was never a single, so no one has put it up on YouTube, though it comes from maybe my favorite of his early albums, Get Happy! The YouTubes are also scrubbed free of Van Morrison, although there are a jillion covers of his tunes, as it should be since he is a brilliant songwriter. The Pogues song is played on my favorite HBO show, The Wire, while the Nina Simone song is from the promo for HBO's Six Feet Under. Someone put a lot of sadomasochistic images with the Buzzcocks song, so viewer discretion is advised.

But if I were to feature one tune, I would pick that perfect pop song I Want You Back, still for my money the best song Michael Jackson ever recorded, followed closely by his love song for a rat, Ben.