Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More lovely actresses, more stinky careers.
My readers chime in.

Several of my readers have chimed in through several social media outlets and the field of lovely actresses with stinky careers is growing like Topsy.

Longtime reader Lockwood nominates Milla Jovovich.

Terrific choice.

Is she pretty? D'uh.

Has she been in anything good? Well, I liked Dazed and Confused and The Fifth Element.

The rest of her career? Ouch.

My nephew Josh put some thought into his response. Too much thought?  It's not my place to judge.

But he did add FIVE actresses to the list, and he limited himself to women with the first name Jennifer.

Jennifer Garner.  Yeah, she's earned a spot. I kinda love her and I think Ben Affleck did a massive upgrade when he decided to marry her, but there's been problems, not least of which is the movie where she and Affleck met, Daredevil.

Jennifer Lopez. I loved her in Out of Sight, but there has been much stinky cheese after that.

I could kick myself for missing her the first time around.

Jennifer Love-Hewitt. Not a career to which I've paid much attention, but she has the requested qualifications.

Jennifer Aniston. Okay, I actually did kick myself for not putting her on the list.  Not hard, but literally.

She was such a favorite on my tabloid blog, she should have come to mind immediately.

And going a little farther back, my nephew Josh reminds us of the vanishing act that was the career of Jennifer Grey. As my nephew Josh put it "Find some post Dirty Dancing relevancy, I dare you!"

"Nobody puts Baby in a corner"? "Nobody puts Jennifer in a good movie" is more like it.

The field is getting seriously filled up. My sister Karla has made some male nominations, which I think deserve another poll after this.

If you have a bright idea, put it in the comments or send me an e-mail. I may have to limit the list just because Blogger software can be fussy, but I'd love to hear more ideas.

Gorgeous actresses! Ugly careers!  It's up to you, America! (And also my readers from other lands. Didn't mean to come across all jingoistic there.)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Suggestion for nominations for a new poll:
Lovely actresses with stinky careers

Hello, loyal readers!  Or should I say loyal non-readers, because I have become an absentee blogger.  I'm still writing about sci-fi predictions and math stuff (including some math about climate data) over on my two new blogs, but I am neglecting my oldest blog in a shameful way.

Watching the Oscars, I had an idea that really isn't about math or sci-fi, so that means I come here to write about it.

The topic is pretty actresses with truly awful careers.

First, let's set some ground rules.

1. Actresses with the name near the title in big budget films. There are boatloads of pretty women in Hollywood and there have been since the days of Mabel Norman. I don't want to pick on some lovely starlet like Yvette Vickers who spent her career in zero budget sci-fi flicks or the very attractive actresses whose career highlights play on Cinemax in the lonely wee hours, if you catch my drift.

In other words: No Shannon Tweed, no Shannon Whirry, none of their busty and usually nekkid ilk.

2. My first four choices are still working. Examples from earlier eras are allowed. The woman who started me thinking about this is still working and even owns an Oscar, as do two other women on my fledgling list. There may be other actresses from earlier times who had a great start and a weak finish, I just haven't thought of them yet.

Without further ado, the starting four of Lovely Actresses With Stinky Careers list, soon to be a reader's poll coming to you on this very blog.

I won't lie, Halle Berry is the reason I made this list in the first place. She has a new movie coming out that looks really stinky, and it's not the first piece of stinky cheese she has starred in.

It says a lot about a person's career when she makes Catwoman and it is not hands down the worst movie she ever made.

Swordfish. Gothika. Movie 43.

The list does not end there, sad to say.

Still, when she wore a cleavage enhancing gown on the Oscars last night, I appreciated it in a dignified but dirty old man kind of way. 

Friend of the blog Karen Zipdrive nominated Charlize Theron. Like Halle Berry, Ms. Theron has an Oscar and she was very funny on Arrested Development.

Still. Aeon Flux. Sweet November. Astro Boy. Snow White and the Huntsman.

Did I mention Aeon Flux? Yes, I think I did. Still, it bears repeating.

Truly orful. 

I chose an earlier picture of Nicole Kidman because she's looking a little stretched and worn now.  Like our two earlier nominees, she has an Oscar.

She did not win it for Bewitched, The Stepford Wives, Eyes Wide Shut, Australia or Batman Forever.


Our fourth nominee has no Oscar, but she is my favorite on the list by a very wide margin. Sarah Michelle Gellar had the title role in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and she was great. But on the big screen...

Hmm. Not so much.

Scooby-Doo. Scream 2. Southland Tales. Harvard Man. The Grudge.

Some of these movies had sequels. That does not mean they were good.

So there is my starting list.  I will give folks until Thursday to make other nominations and I will start the poll on Friday.  I'll also let people chime in on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Other Men's Daughters by Richard Stern

The author Richard G. Stern died last month. There were several glowing obituaries, including the one in The New York Times.  One of his students at the University of Chicago was Philip Roth, who credited Stern with the encouragement to turn his New Jersey upbringing into literature, starting with Goodbye, Columbus. Stern had many admirers whose work is much better known than his, including Roth, Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer and Flannery O'Connor.

I had never read him, but since I never read Patrick O'Brian until I read his obit back last century, I decided my lack of knowledge was no excuse and I picked up one of his novels.

Other Men's Daughters is the story of a middle-aged biology professor who gets involved with a student at Harvard, though he meets her in his capacity as a doctor. it was published in 1973. Looking at Stern's obit, we see he is survived by his wife who got her degrees in 1972 and 1975 and four children from his first marriage. Stern's hero Robert Merriwether also has four children in his first marriage. Clearly, some of the impetus for the novel comes from real life, though names, places, occupations and who knows what else were changed.

I got the novel out of the library. According to a card in a sleeve in its front cover, I was the first person to check it out since 1978. It was in hard cover and had this cover photograph. Going to Google to find an online copy of this, I found several other cover illustrations for the book, ranging from something that looks like a bad romance novel to a cropped photo you would expect wrapped around a Jim Thompson book, one with at least two or three criminal acts driving the plot.

Sometimes novelists remain obscure because publishers are clods.

In any case, I liked Other Men's Daughters. Drawing on my experience as a child of a divorce from the early seventies, there is a lot of honesty and real feeling in the book. He is a strong researcher and does have an ear for humor when he wants to use it.

I don't expect I will now become hooked like I am on books featuring Aubrey and Maturin. For all his strengths as a writer, Stern did not produce a character as funny as Preserved Killick or compelling as Barrett Bonden, two minor but vital characters in Patrick O'Brian's world I love so dearly to visit.

I recommend reading Stern if you have not done so already. Though his obituary gave his middle initial, the books I have found of his do not. His lack of popularity is a mystery, not unlike the obscurity of a rock band like Big Star, Any Trouble or Mott the Hoople.

Sorry, that sounds like the comment of an aging hipster. Old habits are hard to break.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Like an engraved disinvitation.

So I was talking to my sister Karla this evening and I asked the almost rhetorical question "Do you know who is hosting the Oscars this year?"

"Seth MacFarlane?" she answered, her voice trailing up at the end.

Now let me be clear. The question mark at the end of the sentence was not because she didn't know and was hedging her bet. Karla and I are as Gentile as Gentile can be, but her voice going up at the end was one of the Jewish versions of the question mark.

The one that means "What have we done that has displeased G-d so that this plague has been brought down upon us?"

I don't like Seth MacFarlane. I have never liked Family Guy and even though some people say Ted was better, I haven't seen it yet. I will stipulate that he is not the plague that is Adam Sandler. Many critics are now wise to the fact that Sandler tried to do better work but realized his worst crap is the stuff that sells and his movies are getting progressively worse, testing to see exactly where the bottom is that his fans will no longer watch.

MacFarlane is better than that, but I find his pop culture references obvious and unfunny, and the rest of his comedy not even worth criticizing.

Okay, so let's look at the history of Oscar hosts. How important are they?

When I was a wee lad, the host was always Bob Hope. I might not have loved Bob Hope, but I bought into the idea that the Oscars celebrated the best in Hollywood.

In the late 1970s, the standard Oscar host became Johnny Carson. By that time, I neither loved nor hated Carson, but I still kind of bought into the idea that the Oscars gave the awards to the best movies, even though that idea was sorely abused by the idea that Rocky really was a better piece of cinema than All the President's Men, Network and Taxi Driver.

In the long run, the host doesn't matter that much. My favorite host got the job one year and wasn't asked back.

Jon Stewart is my favorite for this one act of kindness. The picture Once won the Best Song award for Falling Slowly, written by the stars of the movie, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. Hansard was first to speak, and when Irglová got to the mic, the band started playing the "get the fuck off the stage, you are boring us" music and she walked off.

Jon Stewart was backstage, and when the show came back from commercial, he invited her out and she finished her speech.

Honestly, that is the biggest class act I ever saw at the Oscars.

I don't have a TV, so I have to visit friends to watch the Oscars nowadays. I probably will pass this year. I have seen the movies that are most hyped, Argo and Lincoln, and I liked them both. But I have reached the point where I have ceased to care what movies win and what movies lose. More than that, the hiring of MacFarlane feels like an engraved disinvitation.

Dear Mr. Hubbard,

We regret to inform you that you are now 57 years old and no longer of much interest to the advertisers of our broadcast. Because you are old, we expect you will watch anyway, not unlike the pathetic people still watching Miss America. But regardless of what decision you make, we really don't give a fuck one way or the other if you tune in or not.

And if you decide to blog about your feelings... yeah, well, good luck with that, too.

Eat shit and die,
The producers of the 85th Academy Awards

 To be fair, they did spell my name right.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The ghost of Dijkstra comes calling.

My latest math hobby is looking at climate data to see if I can make heads or tails of it. There's a lot of data so I can't sort through it by hand. That means writing computer programs. I'm not getting paid for this, so this is just programming for fun.

 Programming for fun... is fun.

If you are a certain sort of person.

I am that certain sort.


Part of the fun is being your own boss. I'm the only one who gets to say when the job is done and the only one who says I have to scrap an idea and go back to the drawing board.

Or am I?

I got a new idea on how to present the data which will show trends in a way that cannot be cherry picked. If you are reading my math blog, you already know I am very adamantly against cherry-picking.

Once I got the idea, it seemed so simple and clear that programming it should happen in a flash, just as fast as I could say the sentence that explains the method.

Hmmm... not so much.

I had to stop in the middle of this "easy" programming task, because it turns out not to be quite so easy.

The ghost of Edsger Dijkstra haunted me.

Dijkstra, the handsome and professorial looking fellow in the picture above, was an important figure in the field of computer science in the early days. While there is a well-known algorithm that bears his name, his major contribution is to the teaching of the subject with an emphasis on rigor and careful planning before a program is written.

Dijkstra died at the age of 72 in 2002. When asked by an interviewer what he would like to be remembered for, he replied: "If some day, someone is writing a computer program and is thinking about how to do a quick and sloppy job, and for a moment that person considers 'What would Dijkstra make of this?', then decides to design the program carefully, that will be immortality enough for me."

Well, professor, as of 3:00 this afternoon you are immortal for yet another year. You're welcome.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The new blogs.

Sorry I'm not blogging much here anymore. I'm leaving this blog open as a historical resource and I'll write occasionally about topics that don't quite fit on the two new blogs. Today, I'm flogging the new blogs, both of which have new material my regular readers might enjoy.

Today, This Day in Science Fiction has yet another example of a French postcard from 1900 (no, not that kind) showing people in the year 2000 acting like dicks.

Not to give too much away, but I was given a great tip for a post that I'll be writing on Sunday, the definitive Ground Zero for generations of nuclear war anxiety, a little history I was completely unaware of until this week.

I'll keep you posted.

Then there's the math blog. For the past few months, I've been working on a project to see if I could make heads or tails out of climate data. I have my system in at least a beta version and I started the intro to the explanation yesterday.  I'll be posting links here to the entire series, which should last several weeks.

So watch this space, as the old ad slogan goes. There will be at least a post a day for a while, most of them teasers with links to the new blogs, not unlike this post.