June 30, 2004

Sox and Yankee Fans Agree About Cheney?

At yesterday’s game in Yankee Stadium, history was made. A subject on which Red Sox fans and Yankees fans alike could agree upon was found! Cheney was greeted with boos at Yankee Stadium. (NYT)

During the singing of “God Bless America” in the seventh inning, an image of Cheney was shown on the scoreboard. t was greeted with booing, so the Yankees quickly removed the image.

The Veep was in attendance, but I don’t think footage of the game will be used at any campaign events. Maine is a swing state, however. Anyone have pics of Cheney in a Yankees cap? New Yorkers will clearly be excited to host the Republican National Convention in August. Has a veep ever been booed at during a game before? It couldn’t happen to a nicer liar guy.

[UPDATED: I ought to have known that Steve would already be on top of this story. And he’s got the pics I mention as well. He may be a Yankee fan, but the fans at the game didn’t seem to want to claim him for their own.]

Posted by James at 5:01 PM | Comments (2)

Books For Soldiers

Want to support our troops? There are a number of ways. Here’s one. Books For Soldiers.

Books For Soldiers is a soldier support site that ships books, DVDs and supplies to deployed soldiers and soldiers in VA hospitals, via our large volunteer network.

Thanks for sending this along, Julie.

Posted by James at 4:06 PM | Comments (1)

June 29, 2004

Spider-Man 2 -- Tickets: Purchased

Sometimes you just get lucky. We had planned a while back that the girls would be staying over with their grandparents on Wed, June 30th. Columbia Pictures moved the release date of Spider-Man 2 to Wed, June 30th. It can’t be a coincidence.

So, now the tickets are purchased and we’ll be there opening nightto see what Ebert has called “[maybe] the best superhero movie I have ever seen.” As the tomatometer tracks the reviews, there are only a couple of straggling negatives among overwhelming positive responses.

If you know me, you know I love Spidey, and I’m tickled pink that the sequel is getting such good reviews.

Expect my review soon.

[Added: Anchorman is getting good reviews as well. This summer is looking like a good one for film. Documentary, Action, Comedy…]

Posted by James at 9:39 PM | Comments (1)

Who Are You?

Answer the questions and find out where you stand.

Turns out, I am most likely a liberal. Shocked! Shocked, I say. (Found on Absit Invidia)

Posted by James at 12:06 PM | Comments (8)

War On Kerry

I still think that it’s amazing some Bush supporters still seek to attack Kerry for leaving Vietnam after being wounded by criticizing details surrounding his Purple Heart medals, while they support a man who did what he could to avoid landing in Vietnam.

It just isn’t much of an argument.

His wounds weren’t big enough? What was Bush doing during the times Kerry was being treated for his injuries? Just wondering. Is it useful playing tit for tat on this?

Whether we should have been in it or not, we’re in a war now. I’d rather have a president who can look realistically at the thing from experience than someone for whom war is dressing up in a flight suit and repeating aloud what you wish were true until people start believing it.

Kerry detractors have luckily latched onto the wrong negative image. The “flip-flopper.” It turns out that people who think sometimes change their minds. True believers are afraid to reconsider their beliefs, even in a dearth of evidence, and even in the face of contradictory evidence. So change happens all too slowly. As was pointed out on Meet The Press this last weekend, Dubya is changing his position on what to do in the world to be more like Kerry’s… but ever so slowly. Too slowly.

Bush’s fervor burs hot enough to send bridges up in flames and set them crashing into the sea. Perhaps it’s not so bad to leave a bridge or two around, just in case you learn you were wrong. You don’t look like such a fool trying to shimmy across on a little rope. And you have enough credibility left that the people on the other side don’t just cut that rope and watch you fall to get you out of the way of the other guy they can trust to rebuild the bridge.

I don’t have a crystal ball, but if Bush loses this election, I think I know some of what we’ll hear in years to come. There will be a lament that Bush was never given the chance to succeed by the liberals. Everything was set against him. We’re all fighting the 2000 election still. The real questions “Why didn’t we nominate someone better in 1999? Why didn’t we nominate someone who really could bring people together?” will be less often heard.

What will become of Bush then? He’ll fade back into using whatever political power he has left to help his buddies in the business. Like a guest you had trouble getting rid of at the end of a party, they finally leave and you have to stay up to clean the mess.

Bleh. Bleh, bleh, bleh.

Bush supporters know that distaste in the election season will keep anti-Bush voters home in greater numbers. It keeps those “undecided” voters home, and those folks usually break for the challenger. So expect more negative tone pieces, like the use of Hitler imagery in an actual Bush-sponsored ad. Disgust people and they won’t come.

So, don’t get disgusted. And keep others upbeat. This election isn’t about 2000, but it is going to be a chance for the popular choice to re-assert itself, which is a re-enfranchising force. It’s a move in the right direction to say we won’t be scared by terrorist, nor by people who say that anything other than bombs and guns is “appeasement,” “weakness,” or “softness.”

Water is soft. It flows around rocks. It changes direction based on a changing environment. But try hitting it at high speed and you see that water really is strong. And rock in the path of water does not last forever under the deceptively gentle lapping of the waves.

Posted by James at 5:20 AM | Comments (1)

June 28, 2004

Cheney, Profanity, and Evasion

Chuck noted Cheney’s recent example of raising the tone in Washington D.C. in a recent post on Unbecoming Levity.

A few questions about Halliburton and suddenly Cheney’s vocabulary smells like low tide in New Bedford harbor (I love you, New Bedford—don’t be angry with me).

As I have mentioned elsewhere, I don’t care much about Cheney’s language. Just like when Bush called Adam Clymer a “major league asshole” and Cheney assented (great picture on Snopes of that moment caught on film, BTW), I think Bush supporters are just going to look at this as their heroes giving the opposition what-for. Noting the hypocrisy of using profanity on the floor of the Senate after having promised to “raise the tone” in Washington amuses us Bush detractors while bouncing off his supporters like questions off Dubya at a news conference.

But if you pay close attention, the amazing thing is that when Cheney whips out the F-word, suddenly the questions about Halliburton are old news. They fall away for a few news cycles until some other silly story makes the headlines.

I agree, the guy’s a hypocritical jerk. But his answers are important, not the way he phrases them. The story here, in my humble opinion, is that Cheney’s evasive technique is starting to tax him. He obviously feels it’s less politically costly to drop an F-bomb on the Senate floor than to actually answer the question. That’s the political equation we’re seeing.

Posted by James at 7:27 PM | Comments (1)

Burning Hand Relief

If you’re grilling out in the back yard and you grab a hot hamburger turner (you know, one of those wire cages you can put a few burgers in) it will burn nice lines into your hand across your thumb and forefinger.

And you get to relive the experience every time you pick something up.

HOWEVER, your burns will be located in such a way that grasping a bottle of chilled beer, cider or other alcoholic beverage brings all the welts into contact with the cool bottle. This provides relief until either:

  1. The bottle warms up, or
  2. You drink the contents of the bottle, causing the bottle to warm up that much quicker.

If you consume the contents of the bottle, or the bottle simply warms up, another chilled bottle must be retrieved to stave off the pain. This process can be repeated as necessary. However, if you are consuming the beverages, you will reach a point where you are no longer concerned about the temperature of the bottles.

Posted by James at 11:24 AM | Comments (4)

June 27, 2004

Sudanese Time Machine

This post is about the impending humanitarian disaster in Sudan. Please read it and do what you can to raise awareness.

Imagine that we could rerun the events that occurred in Rwanda 10 years ago. With the certain knowledge of horrific events to come, would the world’s great nations again stand idle as 800,000 human beings faced slaughter? […]

Yet, in 2004, just as in 1994, the international community is on the verge of making a tragic mistake. Mass human destruction is unfolding today in Sudan, with the potential to bring a death toll even higher than that in Rwanda. ( Another horror in Africa by Mike DeWine and John McCain in The Cincinnati Post )

We don’t have to go back in time, because the Sudanese situation is still developing. Let me break it down here.

  • 1.1 Million people driven from their homes.
  • As many as 30,000 already dead
  • Estimated 320,000 dead by the end of the year.
  • Humanitarian aid blocked by militants
  • Rape, looting, ethnic cleansing

A survivor of the Rwandan genocide named Dancilla told her story to a British humanitarian group. She said: “If people forget what happened when the U.N. left us, they will not learn. It might then happen again — maybe to someone else.” All Americans should realize one terrible fact: It is happening again.(same story as above)

Meanwhile, parts of Africa, including that Darfur region of Sudan are looking at the possibility of a huge polio epidemic.

“There is no question that the virus is spreading at an alarming pace,” […] “The fact that the Sudan is now re-infected is concrete evidence of the need to support a massive immunisation response right across west and central Africa.”

The U. N. describes the Darfur region of Sudan as the #1 humanitarian crisis in the world today.

Please, let Bush and Kerry know that Iraq is not the only issue this election season. There is a potential for these horrible events to mushroom, but now is the time for the world to condemn the atrocities, and for the U.N. to get active in working toward a solution.

This is what the U.N. is for. Now is the time to halt the spread of this chaotic situation and save perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives. Contact the president, Kerry, your senators and representatives. Contact them on actual paper. Get heard.

For your convenience, I’ve added a websticker here for Congress.org that will quickly take you to contact info for your representatives. Just put in your zip code. I’ll be adding a permanent, smaller version of this banner to the sidebar for future reference.

Thanks to Elyzabeth in this thread at EAForums for bringing the issue to my attention. You can see a few people on that board are already planning to send letters on brightly colored paper. Elyzabeth has worked in a congressional office before, and still has friends who work inside. Follow that thread for possible suggestions on what best to do to get heard.

There is also a petition to get the horrible situation in Sudan described as “genocide” which will awaken international obligations to act.

Posted by James at 9:56 PM

Bye Bri Wei

My good friend of many years, and sometime commenter on this blog, Brian is leaving for the left coast today for a new job and new adventures. When we both worked at McDonalds years ago, I was the first one to leave in search of other employment (at Shaw’s Supermarket). But since then, he’s got me beat in the job-switching.

It was nice to see your parents yesterday. There are a lot of memories at their house.

I hope things work out great out there, Bri, for you and the family. And maybe this will give us the excuse we needed to hop a plane to the west someday. See you soon, and don’t be a stranger!

Posted by James at 10:09 AM | Comments (1)

June 26, 2004

Those Batty Texas Republicans

Not the one in the White House. Those other ones.

A leading Jewish group on Tuesday asked the Republican Party in President Bush’s home state of Texas to stop calling the United States a “Christian nation” in its platform.

The Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism and religious discrimination, said it was dismayed about the platform plank and other language in the document that describes as “a myth” the separation of church and state, which is enshrined by the U.S. Constitution and court rulings.

It appears the fact that there are Jews, Muslims and atheists in Texas doesn’t matter much. It’s Christian nation, by god!

Reuters story via Gullibility Isn’t In The Dictionary.

Bow down. You will bow down!!!

Posted by James at 2:19 PM

Fahrenheit 9/11 (First Reaction)

Just got back from the theatre a little while ago, seeing the midnight showing of Fahrenheit 9/11 in Seekonk.

This is a very powerful film. It is surely one of the best put-together documentaries I’ve ever seen. And it is one of the best at making its point and moving on as it builds to a larger point.

There was a full theatre at the 12:05 show. All the previous shows had been full, according to the people at the theatre. As others have reported, Moore mostly keeps his personality out of this one, but for the end of the film when he tries to bring one of his major points to a head — the ill use of our troops.

I’ll post more a little later once I’ve had a chance to think a bit more, but I’ll tell you that you need to see this film and judge for yourself. Judge Moore’s ability to express his opinion and judge Moore’s chops as a filmmaker. Then judge the facts he puts together for you.

At the very least, I don’t think Moore’s skill can be doubted. This film, to use Tenet’s words, is a slam dunk of filmmaking.

If Kerry wins in November, he owes Moore a beer.

Posted by James at 5:17 AM | Comments (9)

June 25, 2004

Thermometer getting HOT

If I’m not exhausted after the aquarium, I may sneak off to see Fahrenheit 9/11 at then local cinema. There will be a review, I assure you, if that happens. Stay tuned.

Posted by James at 10:11 AM

Rainforest Adventure

Yesterday we’d planned a decent day. I finished off the wallboard hanging in the morning and we drove up to Burlington so the kids could have lunch at the Rainforest Cafe.

In the parking lot of the Burlington Mall, as I was backing the car up, we heard a “bang.” I thought it was the transmission roughly slamming into reverse, but apparently it was me driving over something. When we returned to the car, one of my tires was flat. The Sullivan Tire place at Macy’s had a 3 hour wait, so we took it to Sears. I had them replace two tires (they were old anyhow) and do an alignment. By that time, the rush hour traffic had started.

Our plan was to go to Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary and spend an hour or so on the trails. However, the traffic was relentless, and we got deeper and deeper into rush hour. Dusk was fast approaching, and since the mosquitoes emerge in greater numbers as the sun approaches the horizon, we diverted the car homeward and instead of a nice trail walk, I took the kids to See Garfield and Margaret began to mud the drywall.

I thought “Garfield” was going to be a film about the assassination of James Garfield and I couldn’t figure out why the kids wanted to see it. Come to find out, it’s about some animated cat named Garfield. Hmmm.

Anyhow, the movie was cute, if vacuous. Bill Murray does the voice of Garfield, which redeemed it some. Although the CGI cat often looked freakish next to the real cats. It’s those weird human-looking eyes and fleshy nose. They should have come up with a cuter CGI cat that looked less like the mutant pen and ink version. Aren’t cats cute enough? Cat-lovers seem to think so, and isn’t that most of the target audience for such a movie?

Listen to me, Hollywood: stay away from freakish CGI animals. Hire someone who knows that a pair of human eyes and fleshy nose on a big animated cat is approaching the uncanny valley.

Today, it’s the New England Aquarium. No shotgun post, folks. I haven’t spent enough time in front of the computer to collect links.

Posted by James at 9:54 AM | Comments (2)

June 24, 2004

Huge Union Wants End To Iraq War

This looks to me to be the largest organized opposition to the war yet. Read the whole resolution for details but:
SEIU Convention Calls for End to U.S. Occupation of Iraq and Return of U.S. Troops

As recently confirmed by the 9/11 Commission, in violation of the above principles, and based on deception, lies and false promises to the American people and the World, the Bush Administration launched its unilateral, preemptive war against Iraq. The war in Iraq has resulted in the death of thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of US soldiers. Already more of our soldiers, our sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, have died in this war than any other war since Vietnam. And, this war is costing our nation’s taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. […]

That SEIU supports the principles in the Mission Statement adopted at the National Labor Assembly of US Labor Against The War (USLAW), October 25, 2003, namely:
A Just Foreign Policy based on International law and global justice that promotes genuine security and prosperity at home and abroad;

An end to the U.S. Occupation of Iraq;
The Redirecting of the Nation’s Resources from inflated military spending to meeting the needs of working families for health care, education, a clean environment, housing and a decent standard of living;

Supporting Our Troops and their families by bringing our troops home safely, by not recklessly putting them in harms way, by providing adequate veterans’ benefits and promoting domestic policies that prioritize the needs of working people who make up the bulk of the military;

This, the nation’s largest union, represents somehting like 1.6 million members.

As we near the election, I think you will see more and more of the stops being pulled out to oppose Bush. People have had it.

Posted by James at 11:54 AM | Comments (8)

June 22, 2004

Vacation On Track

That title seems a little off. Vacation ideally shouldn’t have a track. Relaxing things don’t have a track.

But this vacation is spoken for. I’m doing work on and around the house. Building walls and (if I can get my act together) replacing a dead garbage disposer. Lots of encouraging progress was made yesterday, suggesting that this vacation time will not go to waste.

One odd thing about this vacation so far… nothing really odd has happened yet. Well, unless you consider it odd that we have inherited a frog from my daughter’s classroom. Summer vacation is coming, and the frog needs a home. Since we donated the money for the frog, we had first choice to claim him. And when our daughter implored us to give the frog a home, we were forced to take him in. So now we have an actual pet.

This frog is tiny. About the size of my thumbnail. If it’s a female, it will get much larger, but so far we have no idea what it is. Thus the ambiguous name “Sam.”

OK, enough socializing. Time for me to get back to work.

Posted by James at 10:09 AM

7 of 9 Refused to Be Assimilated

Here’s a bizarre story that I must have missed the first time around. Ex-wife of GOP Senate candidate alleged sex club forays (CNN)

That Ex-wife is Jeri Ryan, the Borg-enhanced Seven of Nine of Star Trek’s Voyager. She has alleged that her ex-hubby did not see eye to eye on recreational activities.

“It was a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling,” she said in the court document, adding that her husband “wanted me to have sex with him there, with another couple watching. I refused.”

Republicans are worried this will negatively impact his campaign. I have a feeling he’s not going to lose the male vote. This is the kind of hard-hitting political commentary you come to Aces Full of Links for.

Posted by James at 9:38 AM

June 21, 2004

Scary Movie 3 -- Yahtzee!

The Others. Signs. 8 Mile. The Ring. The Matrix. The West Wing. All and more are up for skewering in this latest of the Scary Movie parodies started by the Wayans.

This time out, though, there’s a Zucker in the director’s seat and you can tell. They snuck in Leslie Nielsen and even an Airplane! reference in for good measure.

Scarie Movie 3 inherits the mantle of Airplane! and Police Squad. If you grew up watching those films, you’ll appreciate this one. One interesting tidbit, they’re practically parodying films before they hit the theatres. In one case, scenes were written and filmed a week after the parodied film premiered.

Anna Faris is back as the wide-eyed Cindy Campbell, dealing with various paranormal chunks of plots from other films. If you remember correctly, these films work if the main characters deliver their lines with either a deadpan flatness or a sort of gee-whiz vacuousness. Ms. Faris excells at the latter, and so switching to David Zucker has saved the Scary Movie franchise.

Charlie Sheen, a veteran of Hot Shots is also here in the Mel Gibson role from Signs, so he’s an old hand. New to the business is Simon Rex, playing the romantic lead for Faris, and he out-blondes even her, stepping in as the brother from “Signs” but also as Eminem from “8 mile.”

Gone are all the usual Airplane! genre jokes (_Surely you’re joking! I’m serious. And don’t call me Shirley._) but the sight gags, head bonks and good old bathroom humor are still in evidence. And, as usual, no cow is sacred. Mother Theresa is a bobblehead. Darrell Hammond shows up as a slightly shady babysitting priest, there’s a rap club contest, Native American jokes… this is not a P.C. film. But you get some of your best comedy value watching Simon Rex try to our-rap the rappers, coming so close to acceptance before a careless wardrobe malfunction nearly gets him killed.

The DVD offers quite a bit over the theatrical release. Of special interest was the alternate ending which features perhaps another 30 minutes of footage. This alternate ending (which is too far over the top and badly paced) shows that even after some very expensive production, a film sometimes just needs to be fixed. I found the alternate ending really funny—but it really isn’t up to the quality of the rest of the film. And listening to the commentary, you can hear the sort of deliberation the writers and director went through when they decided to axe it. This is almost as interesting as anything else in the film. Anyone can come up with a bunch of jokes… anyone can make fun of the summer blockbusters. But after viewing the outtakes, you can see how hard it is to stitch them together as a film.

If you haven’t kept up with seeing all the latest genre films, you might as well skip this parody. If you never got “Airplane!” this is probably no the film for you. But for those of us (and we know who we are) who love to watch these goofy scifi/horror movies, we sense their weaknesses and appreciate when someone skewers them. If you were turned off by either of the first two Scary Movie films, it’s probably time to take another look.

Posted by James at 5:25 AM | Comments (2)

June 18, 2004

VACA Shotgun

I’m on vacation today, which partly means I’m behind on putting together the shotgun post because I had work email to reply to (of course). Here we go.

  • Yeti Sports 5 (Game)
    • Bob sent along a link to the fifth Yeti Sport. Flamingo Drive. As with the other Yeti Sports, this is addictive.
  • Joel On Software - How Microsoft Lost the API War
    • Probably only of interest to programmers, but I loved the following line:
    • And best of all, the new Visual Basic/C hybrid would be called Visual C#, so you would not have to tell anyone you were a “Basic” programmer any more.
  • Bush/Zombie Reagan 2004
    • Bush got a poll boost from Reagan dying. Why let that go?
  • Pray for Reason
    • Pray For Reason is a call to Americans of all religions and belief systems who want to see their country’s policies at home and abroad based on facts, history, and reasonable thought processes. Join us in pledging to do everything we can to remove the current administration from office.
  • Kerry Rocks.com
    • Listen to the music of John Kerry’s high school band. Really. Rock and roll.
  • History of Yatta!
    • A Bananafone for an earlier time. This site tracks its history.
  • Wrecker (Game)
    • Fun Shockwave game where you try to destroy the cars in a race. Great for frustration.
  • Kirktoons
    • Political cartoons. I think Patti sent along this link.
  • GhettoFabulous
    • You may be fabulous, but are you ghettofabulous? This site has added a new word to my vocabulary.
Posted by James at 10:49 AM | Comments (3)

June 17, 2004

Bernaise

In a comment on an earlier post, Julie mentions the “Bernaise Effect.” It’s an interesting phenomenon some of you may be familiar with.

The term was coined in the 1970’s when a psychologist noticed that eating his favorite steak and bernaise sauce, then subsequently becoming ill and vomiting it up, he retained a reaction of nausea in the future presence of bernaise sauce.

“Yeah, that makes sense” you say, but this learned behavior was different than previously observed conditioned responses in the laboratory. It only took one vomit session for the response to take hold. In previous experience the stimulus has to be given a number of times before you get something like Pavlov saw with his dog (ring the bell and the saliva starts).

Also, the vomiting happened hours after he ate. Such a long span of time between events was unheard of for producing a desired conditioned response. Usual times were more like one minute. Anything longer and no association is made.

There were other differences as well. He learned that it wasn’t the sauce that had made him sick, yet the conditioning remained. It was only the idea and presence of bernaise sauce that caused his feelings of nausea, not steak or any of the other things that were present at the meal. And this “bernaise effect” lasted many years; without reinforcement, conditioned responses usually die out within 10 to 15 exposures.

This led to an idea that there was some specific, evolutionary tendency that allows our ancestors to quickly associate sickness with certain foods (erring on the cautious side, of course). This effect is seen in other mammals. I don’t know if it’s in any non-mammals. I can’t seem to find it referenced on line, so they may have another name for it.

But when I learned about it, it was called the “Bernaise Effect” after the dinner of the fellow who first noticed it.

Julie mentions a reverse-Bernaise effect. I don’t know if anyone has ever documented such a reverse effect (association of comfort with a food). I think the comfort food effect is probably just plain old association. But still, an interesting way to describe it.

Posted by James at 11:26 AM | Comments (7)

June 16, 2004

B.J. Approves

Buddy Jesus approves Coke Evil. (on my photoblog)

Posted by James at 6:12 PM | Comments (1)

Coke Evil

Coca-Cola C2 has hit the shelves of my local supermarket. Being a recovering addict lover of Coke I had to give it a try.

Disclosure: I have a mild cold and my taste buds are not functioning completely properly.

The new can design has prompted me to name this new Coke “Coke Evil.” Not only is “Coke Evil” a much better name than the pathetic “C2,” it is clearly what the artists had in mind. The can is dark red, like drying blood. There are black highlights in the logo, and a cold, futuristic “C2™” at the top of a can which stares at you like the eye of Polyphemus… er, before he was blinded.

I cracked it open and the unmistakable aroma of Coke wafted up to my nostrils. “Nectar of the gods” as my mother-in-law has called it. Yes, we are a family of Coke fiends.

At this point I must confess that lately I try not to drink the stuff. My interest in C2 is to perhaps allow me the occasional indulgence with slightly less guilt. I really don’t like Diet Coke. A lower-sugar Coke mitigates the damage to my blood sugar and tooth rot. At 70 calories a can, it’s still of dietary significance. That’s only 20 calories fewer than a Hershey bar. Ten fewer calories than a pair of Reese’s peanut butter cups. It gives one pause, thinking that at one time I easily downed a number of these in a day at twice the sugar (twice the calories, as all the calories are from sugar). In actuality, regular Coke has more than twice the sugar at 39 grams to C2’s 18.

A light beer hovers around 5 grams of carbohydrates (sugars and stuff, depending on brand). Except for Sam Adams which has 9 grams. That explains the halfway-decent flavor. Guinness has 17.6 grams of carbs, close to a C2! But you see the caloric effect of alcohol… Guinness has more than two and a half times the calories of C2, 194 calories. Clearly, Guinness is a force to be reckoned with.

I poured Maggie a bit of it, and she had the first taste. Her quick comment was that it tasted good, but retained a diet aftertaste. She observed that it made her want to keep drinking, since you only got the aftertaste when you stopped. You see? Compulsion to keep consuming. A sure sign of evil.

I raised the can to my lips. The initial taste was all Coke. The mouthfeel was only slightly thinner than regular Coke, and I could feel the sugar on my teeth, slightly clinging just like “The Real Thing.” Maggie was right, there is a bit of an aftertaste, but I found it to be much less than I expected. They have cut down on aftertaste by mitigating the aspartame with sucralose. It’s a chemistry experiment in a can.

However, 15 minutes later, I’m craving another one. I’ll refrain, because the caffeine is the last thing I need right now. But my review of this beverage is clearly positive… positively evil.

My prediction is that Coke Evil is going to have the power to lure people into drinking Coke when they should refrain. In other words, success for the Coca Cola company.

Posted by James at 1:02 AM | Comments (15)

June 15, 2004

Blog Periscope

There are a lot of good blogs out there, and a lot of good blog posts. In a similar vein to my Shotgun Posts that have random fun/notable links, I’m considering highlighting blogs/blog posts of note on a semi-regular basis. Peeking up over the surface of the water, here’s the periscope view.

First, a blog I’ve recently taken notice of that it sure to be of continued interest to anyone out there who is interested in politics.

Winning Argument

In his own words “Winning Argument is an effort to marry opinions with fact-based arguments. If you agree with the opinions here, you’ll find some information to help convince others you’re right.” Whether you agree or not, he tackles each subject in a clear way, stating the argument and then backing up his opinion remarkably succinctly. Recent issues he covers are: The administration’s energy bill would do more harm than good, Wal-Mart Is Bad For America, and Top administration officials sanctioned torture.

Stories are whizzing by daily. You’re outraged, but you might be at a loss for words—inundated by the constant flow of news. His tagline says it: You know you’re right - now prove it.

Recent Notable Posts On Other Blogs

  • Retired officials: ‘Bush must go’ (Absit Invidia)
    • Steve points us to a story in the LA Times regarding a group of 26 senior diplomats and military folk who say Bush must go, for the good of the country. Liberals all? Well, they were appointed by presidents of both parties. These folks aren’t slouches, people. Unprecedented. Unpresidented? I hope so.
  • Timing is everything - in high comedy and low (US and the World)
    • The title doesn’t give it away, but this is about John Ashcroft. Paul Krugman recently identified him as the worst Attorney General in history. What happens when the heat is turned up on the Crisco Kid? Stories hit the news about terrorism. The most recent well-timed story is about a fellow who might have been planning to blow up an unidentified mall in Ohio… captured last November. Now that’s timely! One almost wonders whether they have a system now for releasing news they think will sway the public in times of intense scrutiny. Wait, it’s clear they do. What I mean, is one wonders what their process for coming up with that news is.
  • So-so (Tikkabik)
    • It’s a brief post, but it highlights the only thing Bush really inherits from Reagan, and he doesn’t even do it well. A stupid offhand joke Reagan made… if Bush can make similar jokes, I guess he inherits the legacy, doesn’t he?

That’s it for now.

Posted by James at 7:17 PM

Trinity Again

As part of the Father’s Day Celebration, Alex (my brother-in-law) and I took Dad back to Trinity Brewhouse.

Last night’s beers:

  • Pat’s Pilsner
    • Tasty. Light. Summery. Not my favorite pilsner, but a good example of a pilsner.
  • Hefe Weizen
    • Served with a lemon, it was a big step up from the pilsner. Lots of interesting flavors for a beer. More flavorful than a lot of wheat beers I’d had. Sweet and cloudy and a little musty.
  • Point Break Ale
    • I was looking for something a little less hoppy than the IPA, so I went for this. It’s still plenty hoppy, but less alcoholic. It was a great beer on which to finish. Crisp hoppiness. Yummy.

Dinner was the Pulled Pork sandwich on a horseradish mayonnaise with grilled onions. Very BBQ. Moist and delicious. Trinity Brewhouse is starting to become a favorite destination.

Posted by James at 3:01 PM | Comments (11)

Femingineers

Sure, women can be engineers. I’m sure there are plenty of good woman engineers. My daughter seems to want to be a scientist or engineer (or chef or spy) but she likes to think of solutions to problems.

So I’m baffled that women haven’t attacked the toilet seat problem.

You know what I’m talking about. So often you hear complaints that men “leave the seat up” in the bathroom.

I don’t hear a lot of this criticism of this type at home. Either I’m not leaving the seat up, or people don’t care.

However, someone must care. And that suggests the question, where are the engineering solutions?

Where is the spring which snaps down automatically—perhaps even frighteningly? Where are the timers that give you a few minutes to do your business before lowering the seat, pneumatically, into the acceptable down position?

I’m just wondering.

Posted by James at 2:40 AM | Comments (8)

June 14, 2004

New Pet

I’m not really fond of animals in the house. That’s why my new pet is a tree.

There is less responsibility involved with a tree, but for some strange reason, I had to buy a bonsai. I usually research these things before I dive in, but this time I leaped before looking. Our bonsai is a blue moss cypress. Turns out, this sort of plant needs to be wintered. It needs cooler temperatures to go dormant for a few months in the winter. We didn’t just buy a bonsai, we bought a bonsai with a temperament, apparently.

We also bought some “lucky bamboo” for the same room. But I’m 0 for 2 here, because after some research I have learned that it’s not bamboo at all. It’s a plant known as Dracaena sanderiana and what I’ve got are three cuttings, which sit in water like cut roses. It’s a little amusing to see the consternation over the name “lucky bamboo” which pops up on forums which are intended for growers of real bamboo.

Both these purchases were made at a bonsai store that was closing at the Providence Place Mall. Not much expense, and decent room-livening effect.

Real bamboo can be very attractive, and perhaps if we don’t kill the bonsai, making a run at having a real bamboo plant would be a possibility. Or, a second lower maintenance bonsai might be a possibility.

Posted by James at 1:08 PM | Comments (11)

June 13, 2004

Bush/Pope '04?

Bush Asked for Vatican’s Help on Political Issues, Report Says (NYT - registration req’d)

On his recent trip to Rome, President Bush asked a top Vatican official to push American bishops to speak out more about political issues, including same-sex marriage, according to a report in the National Catholic Reporter, an independent newspaper.

In a column posted Friday evening on the paper’s Web site, John L. Allen Jr., its correspondent in Rome and the dean of Vatican journalists, wrote that Mr. Bush had made the request in a June 4 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state. Citing an unnamed Vatican official, Mr. Allen wrote: “Bush said, ‘Not all the American bishops are with me’ on the cultural issues. The implication was that he hoped the Vatican would nudge them toward more explicit activism.

[…]

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called the report “mind-boggling.”

“It is just unprecedented for a president to ask for help from the Vatican to get re-elected, and that is exactly what this is,” Mr. Lynn said. Linda Pieczynski, a spokeswoman for Call to Action, a liberal Catholic group, said, “For a president to try to get the leader of any religious organization to manipulate his fellow clergymen to support a political candidate crosses the line in this country.”

The article mentions that visits to the Pope from leaders are never devotional, they’re always asking for something. Bush is asking for the election. Can the Pope help him deliver it? Will he?

Posted by James at 8:27 PM | Comments (10)

Dog Language

New information that human language may not be beyond the ability of dogs.

The dog, named Rico, can fetch a newly introduced object when asked, even if he has never heard the name of the object before, the researchers say.

I’d like to see more research, but it would be interesting to find that selective breeding that produced the domesticated dog also produced an animal with an increased ability to understand human language.

Psychologist Paul Bloom of Yale University in Connecticut, an expert in how people learn the meaning of words, said not even chimpanzees have demonstrated such “fast-mapping” abilities.

He diplomatically avoids a comparison with certain American presidents…

Posted by James at 12:30 PM | Comments (1)

June 12, 2004

Kerry on Stem Cell Research

“I know there are ethical issues, but people of goodwill and good sense can resolve them. For I also know the fear that most Americans feel at some point the fear of a diagnosis that may take our life or sentence us to a diminished life.

[…]

If we pursue the limitless potential of our science, and trust that we can use it wisely, we will save millions of lives and earn the gratitude of future generations,” he said.

Full Transcript

Posted by James at 2:22 PM

Democratic National Convention

The Democratic National Convention is coming soon to a city near you, if you’re near Boston. This throws a little havoc into our summer plans, but I was wondering whether any of you folks with closer proximity to Boston are being stymied by Democratic National Convention preparations.

Alternately, since it’s so close, do any of you have any plans for doing anything during the convention? I never even really watch the thing when it’s on, and I likely will ignore it this time as well. Although, having a weblog with political leanings encourages me to at least take a peek and make some relevant comments.

What about you all? Any plans to go Democratic National Convention stalking, or Democratic National Convention avoiding? Are you going to dive in, or steer clear?

Posted by James at 12:43 PM | Comments (6)

June 11, 2004

Late Shotgun

As this week of orgiastic Reagan remembrance draws to a close (people will surely ask “Where were you when you heard Reagan died?” in years to come) I offer you this simple list of largely unrelated items. It is my way. Ask anyone.

  • Hardest Flash Game Ever
    • It’s simple, but it takes a steady hand. Not “Operation” but requiring the same skills.
  • Eric Conveys Emotion
    • This fellow offers to convey an emotion a day, by request. The pictures are a testament to his endeavor. Some of them are quite funny. Take a stroll through them.
  • Official Bingo the Clowno Nostalgia Page (MPG file)
    • It’s a stupid little skit, but you can’t help but laugh. And then someone ran with it. Admit it—_you’re_ Bingo.
  • Bob the Ball, Ep2 (Flash)
    • Since we’re all together, we should sing about safety and/or cooperation.
  • Power to Crush The Other Kids (Quicktime)
    • The beloved Apple commercial from SNL many years ago. Send it to someone who will be annoyed.
  • Get Out Of Hell Free Cards
    • 50 for $5 sounds like a bargain to me!
  • People Falling Over dot com
    • The only website about people falling over.
  • Is calling this week “Plant the Gipper Week” a little over the top? Even if you are sick of the coverage? He’s being honored with a tax-funded state funeral, as it should be. Every president deserves something for his service to our country (even a lousy president like Bush). But there are people in my own life life sick and dying… people who actually mean something to me. Let’s have some perspective. Also, lets remember that this poor fellow suffered for a long time, alive, with Alzheimers. Yet Bush won’t give Nancy the time of day on the issue. The real tragedy is not that Reagan is dead. One could argue that this end to his suffering is a blessing under an administration that is not doing what it can to prevent a similar fate befalling other people and their families.

I swear I posted this shotgon earlier, before I went out. But better late than never.

Posted by James at 4:10 PM | Comments (10)

June 10, 2004

Dark Days (Capsule Review)

It’s amazing the lengths people will go to for a little comfort. It’s amazing that homeless folks can scrape together homes in a tunnel beneath New York city. It’s amazing they can live their so long.

Dark Days is an amazing documentary because you see with your own eyes this miniature town constructed beside the speeding Amtrak trains, where people cook, clean, own pets, avoid the rats and live a life that can only be compared to some post-apocalyptic, cautionary sci-fi tale. The beginning of a race of Morlocks.

However, the film lacks any drama. And what we see once we get close is that these are unfortunate people who have exercised some ingenuity, but for whatever reason (their own habits and predilections perhaps) they have stepped off the path of modern life. They aren’t Morlocks, they’re pretty much what you would expect if you thought about it.

My recommendation of this film is lukewarm. It’s a curiosity. But your curiosity may wear off before the credits roll.

Posted by James at 9:45 AM

June 9, 2004

Reagan Dies

I don’t have a strong need to say anything about Reagan’s death, but I may as well have a place to record a few comments and observations. A semi-directed ramble, but hopefully not too long.

First, I remember my parents liking the guy. I was fairly young when he took office. And I remember the shock on the day the president was shot. I remember being upset, and watching the TV for details after coming home from school.

Later in my life, I remember finding that there were a number of things I didn’t like about this president. I remember SDI and Star Wars as a joke. (I just heard a tape of Rush Limbaugh making fun of the people who considered SDI as a joke…) In computing science and defense, Star Wars was a joke. It was beyond our capabilities.

He was not that popular in my neck of the woods. But what don’t remember is criticism from liberals sinking to the type of attacks Clinton was treated to during the 90’s. And now this level of political discourse is de rigueur. I have pulled out all but a few stops in my criticism of Bush.

But whatever the past, we’ve seen an outpouring of respect for Reagan in the wake of his death. I’m going to disagree with a lot of the meta-discussion and use this as a opportunity to attack on our current president. No apologies, either—this is what’s on my mind.1 All this support for Reagan is less about Reagan than it is about this country feeling the need to pull together over something. Yes, Reagan is the focus, but Bush has divided us so bitterly, any excuse to come together is welcomed with open arms.

And so, it is an interesting example of how poorly Bush has been able to capitalize on a public that would love to come together under a leader who could have turned around the 2000 election debacle by being magnanimous rather than, well, a real wanker.

In addition to the plain respectful folks who just want to be decent, Reagan-lovers are coming out of the woodwork. Some of them are annoyed that there isn’t more gushing going on. I’ve heard callers on the local AM station complain (and I’m not kidding) about all the grudging liberal respect for Reagan. Yes, he was complaining that liberals were being respectful to Reagan. He was further annoyed that liberals on Monday were pointing out some of what they saw as failures in his presidency. Once again, there is this odd concept that anything but complete lockstep thought is offensive. Even when people are respectful, it’s not good enough. You will be assimilated.

Romney has made Reagan’s funeral an official state holiday in Massachusetts. Boy, he really wants to be president someday. The UMass Dartmouth Chancellor, however, was untouched, and the university will not be shutting down.

1 To anyone who would say I’m taking Reagan’s death as an opportunity to slam Bush or the right: I don’t need to be given an opportunity. Bush sucks, and so every day brings a new opportunity. If Reagan throws Bush into sharp contrast, that’s not my fault.

Posted by James at 3:16 PM | Comments (6)

June 8, 2004

Sic Transit Gloria Venus

My kids got up at the crack of cloud cover this morning, but they roused me from my bed soon after when the haze lifted a bit. There was some sort of big scientific thing they were all excited and yammering about. Transit of some planet or other. Apparently, these so-called “planets” can get very uppity and rude, passing in front of the Sun and all. As if the sky isn’t big enough that they couldn’t find their own space.

Anyhow, this transit whatzimajig is like an eclipse, only pathetic. Venus is so small compared to the Sun, and so far away that it barely looks like a sunspot from this distance. At least, thats what my daughters tell me.

They’d constructed elaborate wood-and-metal pinhole devices while I lazily took the adult route and whipped out a monocular that was handed down from my in-laws. That’s right, I didn’t even bother to pay for the thing myself. If my brain had been working (it was early) I would have thought to use the telescope.

But wait—I was warned in time not to look at the Sun directly with the unaided eye and especially not with the eye-aided-by-binoculars. It’s some sort of gesture of respect that astronomers have for the Sun, apparently. You’re only supposed to look at the Sun indirectly, that is, at an image of the Sun projected on something.

When in Rome, they say… so we did.

And here we have the results. You must have some pretty serious respect for the Sun, my friend. Because not only are you not looking directly at the Sun, you’re not looking directly at an image of the Sun. You’ve got an image of an image of the Sun. Here you see that big glowing orb which both makes the flowers grow and can burn your eyes out if you look directly at it.

And within the circle of the solar disk on the right side you see a tiny speck—the shadow of the planet Venus. At the time the picture was taken (about 6:30 AM Eastern Daylight Time…10:30 AM for you folks living in GMT) Venus was getting ready to leave the building, as its shadow is moving off to the right.

Those of you really amateur astronomers who actually got up to see Venus, well you’re out of luck. A shadow is all you were getting today.

Posted by James at 10:25 AM | Comments (4)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Capsule Review)

Visually stunning and sometimes rushed, this third Harry Potter movie adventure had me asking a question that hadn’t occurred to me before.

Maybe these books weren’t meant to be made into films.

For this third outing, the kids are older, the images are more frightening (judging by my kids’ reactions) and feeling is decidedly more gothic, including silent-movie-like scene transitions.

But invariably these films must strive not to leave out details the fans want and must reach out to an audience beyond the readers of the series. I’m not sure this film successfully makes the cut on either of those counts.

Fans know the story. Harry returns to Hogwarts this time with a murderer on his trail, the notorious Sirius Black. His inevitable encounter with Black will forever change him and reveal surprises about his past. A new Defense Against The Dark Arts professor will befriend him. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

What’s missing is any connection with the characters, or any tension about what might happen. The pace is all off, with things either happening too slowly or too fast. And with all the magic, there ought to be a sense of wonder. But, somehow between the book and the script, that sense of wonder has disapparated.

If you’re not a fan of the books, you have no reason to see this film. If you are a fan, maybe you want to see menacing dementors as I did. Their wraith-like visage did not disappoint, but it doesn’t carry the film. And the performances of the main characters cannot be blamed, as Harry and Hermione were both well-acted. Ron added a measure of humor that was sorely needed, however the age of these kids is beginning to outstrip their behavior.

Aside from a couple of bright moments, this movie is pretty much forgettable.

Choosing to see this film over Shrek 2 would be a huge mistake in my book.

(Yes, I know I didn’t review Shrek 2. Oddly, I never reviewed the first Shrek either. If you need to know, I thought Shrek 2 it was a to of fun and almost as good as the original. Definitely worth your time.)

Posted by James at 9:15 AM

Rabbit-Proof Fence (Review)

In 1999 I visited the Australian Museum in Sydney, though my hand-written travelogue does not include an entry for that day. The museum made an impression and I was too eager to take in all the sites to sit down and record the experience.

One aspect of the Australian Museum that has stayed with me was the exhibit of aboriginal art expressing feelings regarding Australia’s “Stolen Generation.”

Between 1870 and 1970 there are reports of the forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their families to integrate them into white Australian society. Some claims have as many as 100,000 children separated from their parents and culture in this genocidal policy.

Rabbit-Proof Fence is the story of three such girls. Referred to as “half-caste” children for their mixed heritage, Molly, Daisy and Gracie are removed from their families in 1931 and sent to a camp where they are to be taught to speak only English and pray. They escape and attempt to navigate the 1,500 miles home by following an enormous fence that spans the country.

Kenneth Branagh portrays “Mr. Neville” as a concerned, but racist and misguided Australian who drives a policy of “saving the Aborigines from themselves.” He makes it his business to have these girls located and returned to their reeducation camp.

The perils of their journey are serious (form starvation to desert exposure) but one encounter with an Aboriginal half-caste servant woman conveys a possible fate if they are caught. She clings to them briefly for comfort and to escape the horror of her own life.

This film describes a remarkable journey, and carries a timely message about forcing others to adopt a better way of life… your way of life.

It’s a moving story, played well. The girls’ acting is understated and believably furtive, even when their accomplishments are unbelievable.

Posted by James at 8:45 AM

June 7, 2004

Whoevert Wrote This

Sometimes I get comments in my feedback form. The comments come to me as email messages. As such, they are not associated with any one post. Apparently, this fact is lost on people who leave comments, so I should change my comments form to make that plain. The comment-leavers usually fail to provide a context. As a result, I have no idea what issue drives most people to leave their comment.

The negative comments are usually lame. This time I really felt like I had to share one piece of feedback with my readers:
This is crazy! how the heck can anybody belive this. it relly
          makes me sick. i hope no little kids are lookin at this, cuz
          this isnt funny, itz a relly bad example. i hope whoevert
          wrote this can shuve it up.  
          THE END
This is someone who will likely never return to my site. I have no idea what their complaint is, or what their opinion is. They have completely failed to communicate the purpose of their message. Instead they have only gotten across:
  1. Their displeasure (over something)
  2. A profound lack of proficiency with written English, bordering on disdain.

Really, I can’t even be certain that this negative comment is about something I wrote. For all I know, it could be agreeing with a negative post I made. I have my suspicions, but who can tell.

In case this person (identified only as “Bails” 000@000.com) does come back, here is my witty response:

Huh?

Posted by James at 7:32 PM | Comments (4)

I Believe In Goats

It was an insane weekend, all around. Friday was my youngest daughter’s birthday. This set the stage for a weekend full of celebration, and stress (of course).

Unfortunately, on Saturday afternoon, I got word at work that my grandmother had been hospitalized. I was worried to distraction, and visits to the hospital over the next couple of days didn’t help my worry. She was in a lot of pain and discomfort. I’ll keep you out of suspense and let you know that my grandmother is likely to be fine for now, and probably more comfortable than she has been in a month or more. Let’s hope.

But I need to explain the image in the upper right.

We had a petting zoo for the day. And, since it was a birthday party, a kid zoo as well.

Those of you who know me probably know that I’m not a huge animal lover. Actually, I do have a great fondness for animals—I just don’t feel much of a need to interact with them. I’ve never had a pet and although I’ve had a slight urge to own a ferret now and again I figure I never will. I feel no need to have a pet, and I don’t feel animals belong in the house. Well, not in my house—you do what you like in your own house! In fact, I sometimes enjoy visiting other people’s animals in their houses. But leave them at home, thanks.

On Sunday the appointment was set to have a number of animals visit from Sue’s Friendly Pets.1 For outdoor programs you get ducks, geese, bunnies, dogs, cats, a tortoise and goats… the whole she-bang. For indoor programs, they can tone it down to just the baby animals, swaddled in little blankets for the kids to hold.

We chose the outdoor program because the sky appeared to be clearing and we wanted to get the full gamut of animals. Of course, it began pouring right after we finalized this decision. When the van arrived it was full of animals with no dry place to set up.

So, we let them in the house.

We put down some plastic in our exercise room, set up a pen and the animals were placed one by one in the pen. Lots of animals. They appeared to just keep coming. And as soon as they got into the pen, each of them did what comes natural to all of us when nature calls. Wood shavings were spread to mitigate the damage.

The kids were entranced, as were some of the adults. We had to keep the door to the room closed because the dogs (a lab and a pug, I think) had to be kept outside of the pen. And they didn’t want to be confined to the room. The lab chased the pug into our living room on one occasion, but I was there to stop it getting too far.

Another measure for limiting the damage was what I like to call “goat diapering.” I call it that because that’s what it is. Diapers were put on the goats. That, in itself, is enough to get the kids giggling.

But there was plenty to giggle about, and the kids were keyed up worse than if we’d fed them all candy-covered chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream with a Jolt Cola to wash it down. No, the food came later. Seriously, though, it was really loud in that little room with the door closed, and I’m not talking about the animals. The animals, were neither noisy nor noisome, despite the defecation. The smell was an extremely strong, warm eau de Barnyard. But it was the noise that kept me out of the room, save to take some pictures and a good deal of digital video.

Well, that and the fact that it was packed full of creatures. Seriously, there were at least 20 animals in there and (once it got going) and more than 12 people at any one time. This is not a big room, people. Something like 10’ × 14’ with a treadmill, all our bikes, our mat and my punching bag pushed into one corner, and a TV stand in another corner.

One of the walls was covered with a rasterized image of Mattie I’d assembled on Friday after coming back from visiting at the hospital. Here you can see the back wall of this small room with all our gear strewn about. (Click for close-up of rasterized image. Created with the help of the Rasterbator.)

By the by, putting that image together was fun, but it was needlessly complicated by my disarranging the pages carelessly during transport. It’s not an easy jigsaw puzzle to assemble alone. Up close it just looks like dots.

The animals were an unmitigated success. Even clean up was not too bad, although the plastic sheeting was definitely breached. A whiff of goat lingers. I will be looking into some carpet cleaner. And at least one of our guest went into sneezing fits. We’re airing out the house now.

Kids just plain love to carry around baby animals. At one point, the pug was doing a tango on Mattie’s head and she just laughed as she held a little kitten. This from a kid who, not too long ago, wouldn’t enter a house if dogs were present.

So I’m glad we did it.

Afterward, we hung around with one set of parents, which caused us to miss dinner. We’d planned to see Harry Potter 3 (review to follow), and we did end up seeing it at 7PM, but we were exhausted and run ragged. The kids were overloaded, and the combination of excitement, exhaustion and fright from the movie kept them (and us) up all night.

You’re not supposed to have a “hangover” from a kids birthday party—especially when no alcohol was consumed.

1 Sue’s Friendly Pets has a website. You can try it, but it was down when I wrote this. The phone number is 508.678.4083 (95 Briggs Road, Westport, MA 02790) The lady who brought the animals did a great job.


Posted by James at 11:54 AM | Comments (2)

June 4, 2004

Quickie Shotgun

It’s a little short because I’m pressed for time today. Here goes.

  • Fahrenheit 9/11 — The trailer. (Quicktime or WMV)
    • They have made a distribution deal and it appears this movie will release in American on June 25. Stay tuned for more developments.
  • The Thermochemical Joy of Cooking
  • Spirit of America
    • Our mission is to expand the abilities of Americans serving abroad to improve the quality of life of people at the grass roots level.
    • A charity to help people abroad and show the world we’re not just about blowing shit up and torturing brown people.
  • How do you keep an idiot waiting?
  • Zip Genius
    • This is some Windows Zip archive software I’ve been using. I think it’s pretty cool. Simple to use, integrated with your contextual menus and does a great job. And, it’s Italian!
  • Arms (Shockwave/Flash)
    • Freakiest little flash toy I’ve seen this week.
  • Book Sale Finder

Update!

Posted by James at 10:05 AM | Comments (2)

June 3, 2004

The Day After Tomorrow (Review)

If I were to say I wandered into The Day After Tomorrow thinking I was going to get an education in global climate change, I think it would be safe for you to call me a moron.

I go to the movies for entertainment. Sometimes it’s a great story that entertains me. Other times it’s good characters, good acting, good dialogue. Sometimes it’s the sheer spectacle. Let me give you a hint about this film — it wasn’t the story or the dialogue that got me in the door.

Imagine, if you will, a widescreen videogame called “Sim Weather” where you have but one measure of control, and that is a “weather severity” knob. Wouldn’t you turn the thing all the way up to “11” just for fun? That’s what you get with this film, a big budget weather simulation where they couldn’t help but turn it all the way up just to see what would happen. To anchor the visuals, they added a few inconsequential characters.

Dennis Quaid (playing the main character, Jack Hall) does a passable job with the clichés that Roland Emmerich collectively calls a script. I genuinely liked Jake Gyllenhaal’s character (Jack’s son Sam). Their troubles father-son relationship is some sort of metaphor for doing things before it’s too late. Like with global warming. Get it? I like Gyllenhaal, but that may be leftover approval from Donnie Darko—a weird favorite of mine.

This is a step down for Emmy Rossum after her smallish role as a pivotal character in Mystic River (Katie Markum). Her acting is decent enough it gets me over the reluctance I’ve had to seeing Passionada, a recent film set in New Bedford Mass. in which she has a fairly sizeable role, I’m told.

But back to this movie. The weather effects sure fun to watch. And the extremely hokey, corny plot turns are a hoot. It does get sickening after a while to repeatedly watch the same cliché over and over again in which someone is told “Wake up—you have to see this [data/satellite image/whatever].”

But there is also a pretty consistent theme of people pulling together. None of the characters here are really villains at all. As dystopia descends upon them, we see civilization strengthening, not falling apart at the seams. The script can’t even maintain a decent love triangle rivalry for long. In this way, The Day After Tomorrow is full of humanistic hope and sappygoodfeelings. It’s uplifting, if a good deal saccharine.

Knowing that you’re there for the ride, the only sin of this film is its attempt to seem factual. The silly political stuff at the beginning was unnecessary. If you don’t like Bush, you might get a kick out of the ineffectual president asking the ornery older veep “What do you think should we do??” Cheap shot. Please bring on the tornadoes. And it slows down again for an ending similar to most disaster films.

If you can forgive its faults, The Day After Tomorrow is a mindless eye-candy weather ride. And if you let it get in the way of burning lots of fossil fuels, when that would just be plain un-American.

[Not too surprisingly, “sappygoodfeelings” is not in the MS Word spelling dictionary. Surprisingly, “dystopia” doesn’t appear to be in there either!]

Posted by James at 10:32 AM | Comments (2)

Cha-who-bi?

“My meetings with him were very brief,” Bush said of Chalabi. Bush said he may have met with him while “working the rope line” or at the State of the Union address in January or at the United Nations when Bush spoke there last year. Not mentioned by Bush was how Chalabi was an honored guest at both events, how he was a favorite of neo-conservatives from Vice President Dick Cheney on down, or of how the Pentagon paid Chalabi’s political party millions of dollars a month for intelligence that now looks largely bogus. Chalabi? Baloney. (Chicago Tribune — Kerry is not the only one doing flip-flops )

Bush: I did not have political relations with that Iraqi exile.

Oh my freaking … if we weren’t officially beyond the pale, I’d have to express some outrage or something. Has lying just become the default mode?

But I’m feeling feisty. Let’s go for a two-fer.

Bush’s friends at Enron were caught on tape gleefully rejoicing in bilking consumers. Oliver Willis has a link to some of that tape in a CBS report.

Cheney: I did not have special relations with that guy Dubya nicknamed “Kenny.”

And I just have to say something about Bush getting ready to hire a lawyer in case he needs one because of the investigation of the treasonous exposure of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA operative.

There’s gotta be a link about this somewhere… Okay, here’s one at the NYT.

It was unclear on Wednesday night why Mr. Bush waited until what appears to be the last stages of the investigation into the leak before he consulted with a lawyer. One administration official speculated that the president must have had some indication that investigators now want to question him.

A three-fer.

Bush: My staff did not have treasonous relations with that CIA woman.

Crap - that joke is really running out of steam.

Chalabi, Bandar, the CIA operative revenge leak… why do we keep having these quesitons about who in the Bush administration is compromising the security of our country?

Posted by James at 3:30 AM | Comments (3)

June 2, 2004

Scare Tactics

“Back in 2000, a Republican friend of mine warned me that if I voted for Al Gore and he won, the stock market would tank, we’d lose millions of jobs, and our military would be totally overstretched. You know what? I did vote for Al Gore, he did win, and I’ll be damned if all those things didn’t come true.”
James Carville, Democratic strategist

(Seen in the O’Franken Factor weblog comments)

Posted by James at 3:54 PM

Penny Abolitionists

William Safire wants to abolish the penny.

Why is the U.S. among the last of the industrialized nations to abolish the peskiest little bits of coinage? At the G-8 summit next week, the Brits and the French—even the French!—who dumped their low-denomination coins 30 years ago, will be laughing at our senseless jingling. (Op-Ed Columnist: Abolish the Penny)

That is quite fine with me. But I’ll see your penny abolition and raise you a dollar bill abolition. I say get rid of the greenback and replace it with the dollar coin. And perhaps add a $2 coin as well.

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Posted by James at 12:44 PM | Comments (9)

Who Will Be The Veep Candidate?

One internet wag has it down to a science.

PROS AND CONS OF JOHN KERRY’S TOP TWENTY VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

But don’t count on his choice for #7 position:

7. Paul Tsongas, former Senator, Massachusetts
  • Pro: Fiscal conservative, appeal could cross party lines
  • Con: From same state as Kerry, died in 1997

Otherwise, though, Tsongas is a great veep candidate.

Posted by James at 10:09 AM | Comments (3)

June 1, 2004

He Bop, Saddam's Pistol Edition

Picture this. A president sitting in the little study off the Oval Office playing with his pistol.

If you guessed it was Clinton, you got the wrong president.

Happiness is a warm gun for President Bush, now that he has fetishized the Iraq war down to one trophy which he hangs on his wall and, no doubt, spends a little alone time with now and again.

“He really liked showing it off,” says a recent visitor to the White House who has seen the gun. “He was really proud of it.”

Yes, it’s Saddam’s own gun—the very pistol which Old Spiderhole kept nestled in his lap to keep himself company during those dark, unshaven hours in the ground. Dick Cheney and Dad are having a really hard time getting Bush to stop pointing the 180 billion dollar pistol at people and saying “BANG! You’re liberated, sucker!” Unseemly. Not presidential. Wouldn’t be prudent before the election.

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Posted by James at 10:24 AM | Comments (4)