July 31, 2004

Woonsocket Serial Murderer

Boston.com: R.I. man is serial killer, say officials

Shea said that in his 25 years on the force, “These are certainly the most horrific [crimes] we’ve ever had.”

Investigators believe that all three victims — Audrey L. Harris, 35, Christine C. Dumont, 42, and Stacie Goulet, 25 — went willingly with Mailhot to his first-floor apartment on Cato Street, said Woonsocket police Captain Luke H. Gallant. The apartment is less than 100 feet from Arnold Street, which local residents say has long been the center of the city’s flesh trade.

[…] Once inside Mailhot’s apartment, Gallant said, all three were strangled and then dismembered. Mailhot put the body parts in plastic garbage bags and threw them into “various commercial dumpsters in the Woonsocket area,” Gallant said.

[…]

An anonymous tip led police to one of the alleged assault victims, and that victim’s description of her attacker eventually led police to Mailhot, police said.

Friends and neighbors described Mailhot as a solitary, but not unfriendly person who was at times obsessively neat.

I think that many times information from the public could help police stop repeat-offense violent crime. If officials are correct, this time it did.

Posted by James at 2:34 PM | Comments (1)

July 30, 2004

Post-Convention Shotgun

…which has nothing to do with the convention.

  • 9 8 Queens of Death (Game) [Edited: removed my typo]
    • Place 9 8 queens on the chessboard so that they do not attack each other. Harder than it looks, but there are many solutions.
  • Journey:A Tribute To America (Flash)
    • Hokey Flash video for “Don’t Stop Believing.” It’s not especially messed up or anything. But the whole idea of listening to Journey on purpose is messed up.
  • Who Will Be Eaten First?
    • If you’re familiar with Jack T. Chick’s Christian tracts, you’ll love this parody.
  • Anti-Bush Bumper Stickers
  • Cyrkam Airtos (Game)
    • Throw the wadded paper into the basket. Not easy! Try to hit the plane as it goes by, too.
    • (Link via Mike )
  • Middle East War Movies
    • Parodies of DVD covers. The theme: Dubya
  • Send Back Your MP3s! (Satire)
    • Absolve yourself of guilt. Send any downloaded MP3s back to the record execs!
  • White House West — with Will Ferrell (Movie)
    • America Coming Together has produced this video with Will Ferrell to promote their goal of encouraging Democratic base voters to vote and swing voters to vote in favor of progressive causes. They boast the largest voter contact program in the country’s history. Aside from a good cause, their Will Ferrell video is quite funny.
    • (Link via Bil )
  • Get Your War On
    • There’s a new page of the often funny and always blunt anti-war comic strip.
  • Airtoons
    • Funny comics from airline safety information.
Posted by James at 5:15 AM | Comments (4)

Did you hear that sound?

Wait. Wait… yes, I think that was it. The shot heard ‘round the country.

Kerry gave an energetic, rousing speech and administered to his supporters a real shot in the arm. The surprise that he spoke of must be that he’s been holding back. He hit the two targets I thought were most important tonight. First, he told people who he is. After tonight, I think there can be no complaints about him defining himself.

As the end of the speech approached, he also got more specific about defining messages and what he wants to do for the country. Stronger at home, more respected abroad. Trust and credibility. Value families instead of “family values.” Pray we are on God’s side instead of insist God is on our side. No war without a plan for peace. No sending kids to die unless we have an imminent threat. Stronger military. Invest in education. Invest in alternative energy sources. No middle-class tax increase, and no corporate welfare.

I think this speech will resonate with many of the undecided voters. And, as Maggie jokingly said: “He’s so lifelike.”

Here is the full text of the speech.

And as the convention fades into the sunset, we can look back and laugh at all the silly Bush-supporter predictions of doom (Clinton will overshadow! Edwards will overshadow!) and tinfoil hat theories (Hillary will dispose of Kerry and take his place!)

OK, the tinfoil hat theories weren’t that bad, but they were close.

Posted by James at 1:08 AM

July 29, 2004

Kerry Surprise

Irish Times Article - Kerry promises to surprise with speech of his career

So, we were wondering. What surprise will Kerry announce? Some guesses.

  1. Edwards out as Veep, Obama in.
  2. Kerry announces that, if elected, he will decree all Tuesdays in the summer “Naked Tuesday.”
  3. No debates against Bush. Instead, cage matches vs. Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.
  4. Kerry informs the crowd, in a sinister tone, that they won’t be having anymore problems with Ralph Nader. It’s been “taken care of.”
  5. Theresa is teaming up with Paris Hilton for “A Simple Life 3” — advertising proceeds to pay off Bush’s national debt legacy.

On the off chance it’s any of these, I’ll be watching!

Posted by James at 5:23 PM | Comments (4)

Devoted Flock To Boston

BOSTON (AFOL) - Tens of thousands of faithful pilgrims converged on Boston, Massachusetts this week for a glimpse of a grease stain on the bottom of a pizza box that some are calling “a true Democratic miracle.”

The stain, left over from an office party snack, is at the bottom of a box of pizza ordered from Halfwit Pizzeria. A casual remark from a co-worker that the stain “looks a little like Kerry” made Frank Lehaye look twice. After he posted the photo on his weblog, the comments and email started pouring in.

“They wanted to know where I live and whether they could come and ‘view’ the pizza box.” says Lehaye. “After they started showing up at the office, we had to move the box to a conference room.”

Since the beginning of the week, around 20,000 people including Democratic party faithful and media covering the event have streamed into Boston to camp outside of Leyahe’s office. The hope of every pilgrim is to catch a glimpse of this amazing sight, which they take to be a sign from God that change is in the air and George W. Bush is on his way out of office.

“Our prayers have been answered.” said one young woman wearing a Kerry for President button. “Soon our long national nightmare will be over. It is written in pizza grease!”

When asked what he thought of the excitement, Lahaye said “I can’t believe all these people came to Boston just for this. It doesn’t even look like Kerry. It looks more blotchy, like Bill O’Reilly. And the pizza tasted like cardboard.”

Posted by James at 4:48 PM | Comments (3)

Falwell Invocation?

AMERICAblog is claiming that Jerry Falwell has announced he is giving the invocation at the Republican National Convention. This can’t be true, can it? Would the Republicans really do that?

The guy who said such insane things in the wake of the 9-11 tragedy (though not confined to that time) surely can’t be who they are choosing to set the moral tone.

A couple of days ago, a new complaint was lodged against Falwell for using his non-profit organization to raise money for Bush’s re-election. Story here and here.

In an e-mail newsletter sent to followers July 1, Falwell urged conservatives to vote for Bush and “flood Campaign for Working Families with financial help.” The Campaign for Working Families is run by Gary Bauer, a conservative activist who opposes abortion and gay marriage.

Falwell’s newsletter appeared on the ministries’ official Web site, and also included a link to the contribution site for the Campaign for Working Families.

Perhaps the question ought to be, could Republicans possibly find a more representative person to give their invocation. I can’t believe they’ve chosen him, and it can’t be verified, but he seems like the perfect choice to drive home some of the things we most dislike about Bush. For that, he’s noteworthy.

Just for fun and outrage, a link to Falwell quotes.

Posted by James at 2:37 PM | Comments (2)

Blue Outfitgate

Apparently, wearing a clean-room suit is embarrassing. The Talent Show has full coverage. Full, blue, hermetically sealed coverage.

Posted by James at 1:21 PM

Edwards

I admit, I don’t know much about Edwards. And after last night’s speech, I don’t feel I know all that much more. His speech made little or no impression on me. If the conventional wisdom on the right is followed, this is a good thing for Kerry, because he won’t upstage the presidential candidate.

Ah, but the right way to look at it is good speech = bad because it upstages Kerry. Bad speech = bad because… take your pick. Wet behind the ears, no gravitas, not presidential, etc.

The rightish Steve weighs in, and it turned him off. (And I believe him when he says he gave it a fair chance.)

What does this mean for Kerry and the convention? Probably nothing, as people are really waiting for tonight’s show, and the convention will then be judged for its effectiveness as an infomercial.

Posted by James at 12:54 PM | Comments (6)

July 28, 2004

Time Out for Cheney

local6.com - Politics - Child Tells DNC Cheney Needs A Timeout For Cursing

Wexler told delegates that she’d heard about Cheney’s heated exchange with Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor — during which Cheney used what the 12-year-old calls “a really bad word.” She said if she used that word herself, she’d get a “timeout” — and she thinks that’s what should happen to Cheney.

Posted by James at 3:56 PM | Comments (5)

July 27, 2004

2 and 2 Together

Boston.com : Easy does it on Day 1 for commuters

Hundreds of thousands of commuters steered clear of the city, or left far earlier than usual, leaving roadways half-empty and occasionally hushed on the convention’s inaugural day. The traffic tangles that some residents feared never happened.

Great to hear! Bob and Patti alerted me to this with their comments. Dire predictions were all way off base. But wait!

With many employees either on vacation or working from home, convention delegates had the sidewalks of the North End nearly to themselves, walking past almost empty restaurants toward a luncheon hosted by the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in the shadow of Old North Church.

”Nobody’s going to pay for food when you can get it for free,” said Joe Taglieri, a manager at the Florentine Cafe on Hanover Street. ”For my restaurant to be empty like this on a summer day in the North End is unbelievable. Wow. It just doesn’t happen.”

As Taglieri spoke, he spotted a city official, who, he said, once predicted streets full and restaurants so jammed that the neighborhood would have to be cordoned off to accommodate the crowd.

”He must feel like a fool now,” said Taglieri,

So, the problem is that the delegates are being fed? No, that’s just a restaurateur mantra. This is the same garbage we heard in an earlier post about some bozo with a banner.

The delegates are being fed (although I’m sure some will wander from the program as the week goes on). But journalists are numbering around 15,000—more than 3 times the number of delegates. Are they all being fed as well?

Let’s put two and two together. This has nothing to do with feeding delegates. People were told to stay away from Boston this week. Consumers were told to stay away. And more than 15,000 people have stayed away. A drop in business is going to be proportional to the number of people above and beyond 15,000 who were frightened away from the city this week. How can business be good when everyone is avoiding Boston?

It’s apparently too much to expect that people interviewed in the paper to come to this conclusion on their own.

[I should add, as someone posted in a comment, caterers are doing a good business feeding the delegates. The delegates did not bring their food with them. Someone in Boston is getting that business. So, the “delegates are being fed” is only a comment on how the convention is affecting a particular restaurant. And, at that, it is also an inaccurate comment/mantra.]

Posted by James at 5:57 PM

Convention Dynamic

So I ask [Moore] what he makes of all of this. No attacks on the president. Not even any mention of the man’s name. It’s like […] the non-Michael Moore event. […]

Clearly, the guy didn’t know what to make of me. And as he breezes by he says, “Oh, Really? I liked it. You don’t even have to say it. Everyone knows how bad it is.”

Think what you will about Michael Moore or evening one of the convention, I think that sums up precisely what this event is all about and the dynamic on which it’s operating.

That, according to Josh Marshall. I taped the big prime-time speeches and will be watching them while I do my morning exercises. But what I saw last night (some of Al Gore and some of President Carter) certainly had its references to the state of things.

… we cannot maintain our historic self-confidence as a people if we generate public panic. Third, we cannot do our duty as citizens and patriots if we pursue an agenda that polarizes and divides our country. Next, we cannot be true to ourselves if we mistreat others. And finally, in the world at large we cannot lead if our leaders mislead.

(full text of Carter’s speech)

Atrios on President Carter: “Meet President Carter. They begged for an honest man, and they drove him out of town. Bastards.”

Posted by James at 9:12 AM | Comments (12)

Whine Elevated to Lying

Perhaps the folks we’ve been talking about are rank amateurs at whining about the convention. Some professionals have raised it to an art form. Or a form of art. Or, “art” as in lying. Carr lied about Dem Convention’s impact on Boston [Media Matters for America]

In the midst of his rant against the Democratic event, Carr claimed that, as a result of the convention, “[P]regnant women [have been] told to go to suburban hospitals, some of the hospitals have canceled … elective surgery, chemo radiation treatments have been either postponed, or moved to the early morning hours.”

When you’re lazy, just make up the news.

Brian, your sister’s due date was during the convention, and I know the convention hype worried your family. Was she told she had to switch hospitals? If I remember correctly, she was not.

The fact of the matter is, all this negative fantasy BS was a way to fill the time not occupied by reporting the real news.

Posted by James at 1:28 AM | Comments (6)

July 26, 2004

Humor Will Suffer

I have a suspicion that humor is going to suffer under a Kerry presidency. A recent post on The Volokh Conspiracy adds strength to my speculation.

Volokh points out that Slate’s latest Kerryism really leaves something to be desired in the areas of humor and criticism.

If memory serves, it took more then 4 years before Clinton humor got at all funny, and he is quirkier than Kerry. If we get Bush out of office, we’d better hope he stays in the news somehow. Because humor is going to suffer.

Posted by James at 5:54 PM | Comments (1)

Outfoxed and Glick

Julie came over this weekend and we all watched “Outfoxed.” It’s got some pretty amazing moments, and it pulls some of the worst biased FOX activities all together. However, you can just watch about 10 minutes of Fox News and come to the same conclusions if you’re paying attention.

The most dramatic portion of the film was when O’Reilly (the wanker) had Jeremy Glick on his show. A 9/11 family member after having lost his father, O’Reilly proceeded to verbally abuse the boy because Glick took him to task for using the memory of his father and so many others. And also because O’Reilly simply disagreed with him.

Well, if you want to read about it, here’s Lawrence Lessig’s recent appeal to O’Reilly to come to his senses, as O’Reilly continues to plumb the depths of conservative media inanity:

Mr. O’Reilly, please just stop.

Posted by James at 1:06 PM | Comments (13)

July 24, 2004

Reader Unpreferred

Chuck writes about book stores, and I always love his curmudgeonly consumer stories. This post is my response. It gives me a chance to plug my favorite book store Baker Books, and commiserate about Preferred Reader accounts.

I hate the preferred reader accounts as well. Waldenbooks used to have clubs. They didn’t charge you to be a part of the Sci-Fi Readers Club.

And you got a discount. They collected your info and they sent you a newsletter, but you didn’t pay.

I was a broke student when they switched over to the current system, and I thought the idea was insane. But it’s actually ingenious. See, just giving the discount is not enough to get you to come back. Charging the (IMHO arbitrary) $25 is how they make you feel obligated to come back.

This is how it works: The discount is the carrot they wave to get you to pay the fee. The fee is what you pay so that you feel obligated to return. You don’t return because of the discount—you return because of the fee.

I like the way my local bookseller does it. Which is (surprise, surprise!) almost exactly like Chuck’s Chinese restaurant example. Baker Books keeps track of the books you buy (and they don’t share the info) and after 12 books, you get a credit based on the average $$ you spent on your 12 books. Basically, you get enough to buy another book at the average price. So, every so often, they throw another book in for free.

You’ll go up to the counter to buy a book, and they’ll say “Aha. You have a credit. Would you like to use it today?” Sweet! Your book is free that day.

I should only ever buy books from Baker Books. They’re smart, helpful, friendly and they were helping me find books before it was easy to search on the internet. They have a used book store right next door (I’ve never been in there). Inside the store, there is a cafe, and they have social events which semi-hermits like me do not attend.

If you’re ever in Dartmouth on Rte. 6, stop n and buy a book. You know you want to.

Remember Annie’s Book Stop? There used to be one of those behind Papa Gino’s in Dartmouth. I think I gave them all my Star Wars books for credit. But I don’t think I ever collected any used books with that credit because the place was filled with romance novels. If you could find something you liked, it was a good way to recycle books.

Posted by James at 4:00 AM | Comments (2)

Pizza Not Accomplished



Pizza Not Accomplished, originally uploaded by drmomentum.

When banners collide, there is no telling what will happen. A pizza shop, an aircraft carrier, two banners… Wham!

Posted by James at 3:00 AM

Romney Kudos?

I could say “even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while”, but in this case Romney is doing the right thing for Massachusetts, and hes’s quite deliberate about it.

With bold, creative action, the Republican governor saved the city of Boston — and, in turn, the Democrats gathering within it — from deep, enduring embarrassment at next week’s convention. [Boston.com / Rising above partisanship]

I don’t talk about Romney much, and when I have on this weblog, it’s been negative. But the man in the Governor’s seat deserves some credit, and I will give that to him, for working with the mayor to ensure a safe and successful convention.

There are a lot of reasons I don’t like Romney—not the least being his lack of support in issues important to my region of the state. And perhaps there is a bit of playing to Boston in his recent actions. But he has acted in the interest of the city and of Democrats everywhere, despite how it would help Republicans if the convention looked bad. It’s professional, and it’s an instance where I can say “kudos.” But when you’re done, Mit, maybe you could spend some time thinking about our bridge and commuter rail problems?

Posted by James at 1:23 AM

July 23, 2004

Shotgun Post -- The Post

Here you have it. My weekly link dump. Lots of fun to be had. Go have it.

  • Magical Trevor (Flash)
    • From the folks who brought you Badger, Badger. A cow in a press conference giving more cohereny answers than our president.
    • “Everyone loves Magical Trevor ‘cause the tricks that he does are ever so clever.”
  • Lord’s Song in a Strange Land (movie)
    • An interesting protest film about the news, terrorism, foreign policy… I haven’t watched the whole thing yet. However, someone spent a lot of time on it. Take a look. Check out, especially, the chapter “Why?”
  • Just F-ing Google It
    • A website used for telling people they should have done the search themselves. Add your search terms to the end of the link, and it passes the search onto Google. Example: click this link and you’ll see the message for 10 seconds before you’re redirected to a search of “Bush” and “Deserter.”
  • The Boiling Point
  • Ninja Jeapardy (Flash)
    • Wacky ninja fun.
  • The Daily Scribble
    • Yet more political cartoons. And no need for Flash. These are scribbled on lined paper.
  • Piano Balls Guy
    • This fellow plays the electric piano while juggling. The GOP could use someone with that skill to juggle their scandals. Hmm. Have we ever seen Karl Rove juggle?
  • Totally Gridbag (Flash)
    • This one is especially for Java programmers.If you’ve ever struggled with the GridBagLayout, this animation will be extremely familiar to you. One programmer expresses his frustration.
  • Inside Jack (Flash)
    • Another programmer-themed animation.
    • “And I got to thinking… what’s Sun going to do with 2 billion dollars?”
    • Notice, this is on Sun’s server.
  • SNL Transcripts
    • Thousands of transcripts of SNL skits. Really. Here’s The Continental with Christopher Walken.
  • Spamusement
    • According to the page: “Poorly-drawn cartoons inspired by actual spam subject lines!”
  • Make your own bottlecap tripod
    • For when you… er, need a tiny tripod.
  • Google, circa 1960
    • A parody of a search engine. Heh!
  • Escher Web Sketch (Java)
    • Make your own Escher-style tilings!
Posted by James at 10:37 AM | Comments (1)

Howdy, DNC

The DNC is coming to town.

In fact, I had a few moments with a friendly DNC-er this evening. I told her about this weblog, so if she and her fellow Kerry-supporters are visiting, I’d like to say “Howdy.” Welcome to the blog, feel free to leave comments, or send me an email (I left you my email address, but you can also use the email form here) I wish you luck canvasing the swing states.

My nascent “TrimShrub.com” site, which might also interest you, is where I’m keeping my anti-Bush and pro-Kerry banners. Feel free to steal those banners.

And, in case you need a laugh, here’s something that you should see if you haven’t yet:a tribute to the Bush/Cheney Sloganator. (I can’t take credit for that one)

Friends, if you really want Bush out, support the DNC in its efforts. They need help.

Posted by James at 12:50 AM

July 22, 2004

Convention Bitching

Patti has been sending me stories of people bitching about the inconvenience of the Democratic Convention being held in Boston next week. She sends the messages because she’s had enough of the complaining. I have to agree.

Citizens of Boston are expert complainers. But this takes the cake (or pie):

Sign of Bush Support Surfaces

Even though he voted for George W. Bush four years ago, Mark F. Pasquale was looking forward to the Democrats coming to town, especially since the pizza shop he has run for the past 23 years is right across the street from the FleetCenter. But then the barriers started going up, the security rules kept getting changed, and he finally had enough. He’s closing during the convention and leaving behind a banner in support of Bush.

Dear Mr. Pasquale,

Vote for whomever the hell you like. Put all sorts of signs up. Flee the country. Whatever. But don’t expect me to set foot in your shop.

It’s not that you’re a Bush voter. It’s not that you put a sign up. It’s that you’re whiny-as-hell, and no one likes a whiny-as-hell pizza.

To leave you on a positive note, I hope your wish of being visited by Dubya is granted. I hope he is un-elected this November and that he becomes a fixture in your shop where he will regale your patrons with stories of how he’s not a liar, just incompetent and incurious.

Posted by James at 11:10 AM | Comments (25)

Crappy Mood

Wow - I have had this crappy mood descend over me in the past few days. I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. As noted before on this weblog, watching the news too much can be a horrible drag. Some of it is that, I’m certain. In any case, I thought I’d post a few links to odd stories, and blather a bit. Kind of a “take back my mood.” Video games didn’t work, so I’m trying this.

So excuse the rambling nature of this post while I get a few things off my chest. Not things that have been bugging me, particularly, even. Just things.

Take this story about Britney Spears, for example.

As I told Ryan yesterday, any time spent thinking about, talking about or reading about Britney Spears is wasted time you’ll never get back. However, when I installed an AOL:IM client yesterday, it installed a news crawl, and trhe first thing I was faced with was the story that Britney’s new fiancé is going to be a dad. Again. Not with Britney. As Ryan said, Britney is trying to show that gays should have the right to marry, because hetero folk can mock the institution as effectively as anyone.

By the way, that’s Brit’s beau’s vacuous, confused countenance on this post. Looking at the pic, I feel sorry for the guy. On second thought, no I don’t. I’m just glad I’m not him.

Moving right along, here’s a story about the first pub in Dublin to defy the smoking ban and get fined. I have conflicting feelings. Not about Dublin, but we now have a smoking ban in MA. And now I’m more inclined to go out (though I haven’t had much time to lately).

Last week, when we went to Newport Creamery in Barrington, RI, Maggie if the restaurant was nonsmoking and the waiter replied “of course.” It was music to my ears. I don’t know if there is yet conclusive proof that second hand smoke is damaging to health. But I do know it’s annoying, noxious, and many people are allergic and have reactions to it.

Years ago, I would have been dancing in the streets about a smoking ban (friends will attest). But I’m more of a libertarian now and I don’t like the government banning… well, almost anything. Yes, publicans and restaurateurs always had the ability before to ban smoking within their establishments. But there was a high dose of fear that their business would plummet if a particular town went nonsmoking, or if they alone went nonsmoking. Few arguments were made that a smoke-filled restaurant was a good thing, only that they were afraid to lose business.

In light of that, perhaps the statewide ban gives them some cover. The predictions about losing business were never borne out in nearby towns that banned smoking.

While I stopped actively supporting a ban a while back, inside I am secretly happy that I can walk into a bar and leave smelling like spilled beer instead of tobacco.

In New York, they don’t like it when you keep a tiger in your apartment. Ok. Noted.

Ok, here’s this story from Germany.

Germans are Europe’s worst binge drinkers with almost one in five believing “the point of drinking is to get drunk,” according to a survey Wednesday.

“Although the Germans may not go drinking as often as the British, when they do drink, many want to get drunk,” said Mintel senior consumer analyst Michelle Strutton.

Alright now. What do the other 4 people do? Drink to get sober? I wonder how well that works for them. Lest you conclude I am an intractable drunkard, my rules about drinking are simple. Most of the time, I don’t drink. Occasionally, I drink because it enhances food (wine does this). I drink things like scotch, cider, beer and gin and tonic because I like them. And, I have had a couple of drinks knowing that I’d get tipsy along the way.

If that makes me a German… well, so be it. But shame on the Irish for letting the Germans one-up them like that. I mean, really.

OK, I have to cut this ramble short. But I want to leave you with a story that may inspire, or it may not. Either way, I just liked the uplifting headline:

Mystery Hero Dog Captures Toronto’s Imagination

Anyone remember Happy Scrappy - The Hero Pup? (warning: adult language)

Posted by James at 10:28 AM | Comments (8)

Suppress The Vote '04!

Democrats blast GOP lawmaker’s ‘suppress the Detroit vote’ remark

Democrats on Wednesday denounced a Republican lawmaker quoted in a newspaper as saying the GOP would fare poorly in this year’s elections if it failed to “suppress the Detroit vote.” […]

Pappageorge, 73, was quoted in July 16 editions of the Detroit Free Press as saying, “If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we’re going to have a tough time in this election.” […]

Pappageorge’s remark reflected the GOP’s failure to send black voters a persuasive message, said Rep. Alexander Lipsey, D-Kalamazoo.

“This is the endgame strategy the Republican Party has decided to utilize, rather than positive strategies,” he said. “They are strategizing, “How can we get those folks we don’t care about from going to the polls?”’

Some are saying this comment has racist overtones. I just think it’s nasty all-around. Suppress the Detroit vote? A party professing to love democracy (the president talks glowingly about it) doing what it can to subvert it and reduce its practice within our borders. That’s stark-raving Republican.

Posted by James at 9:06 AM

Sandy Desperation

I don’t know if you’ve been following this Sandy Berger thing. As Josh Marshall put it “Finally a case Bush is eager to see investigated!”

Marshall is viewing this whole tempest in a teacup as an indication of the administration’s growing desperation as support for Kerry (as evidenced by polls, money, etc.) grows.

If you’ve heard anything at all about Mr. Berger and those copies of classified documents he was studying and took with him against archive protocol, you should probably be checking the Talking Points Memo for perspective and details you won’t get from the talking heads on TV.

Posted by James at 8:58 AM

July 21, 2004

The Rambunctious Skies

Two crew members on a domestic Aeroflot flight beat up a passenger who had complained that the flight attendants were drunk, airline spokeswoman Irina Dannenberg said.

Reverse air rage on Russia flight

Passengers, please do not mess with the inebriated air crew. They are quite violent in this state. Remain in your seats. It is for your own protection. Thank you.

Posted by James at 4:08 PM | Comments (4)

The Station Agent (Review)

I like films about curmudgeonly characters, I guess. I’ve got a bit of hermit in me. But, even so, I think we all need other people and are especially drawn to certain people who become our friends. And so a film about the inevitability of friendship also strikes a chord.

The Station Agent is about a dwarf named Finbar (Fin) McBride who inherits an old train depot at the same time he loses his oldest friend and his job. Having no remaining friends, and is fine with the idea of just moving in to the depot, hanging out, walking and reading. He prefers being alone since he is uncomfortable in social surroundings. And shouldn’t a dwarf living in a previously-abandoned depot be able to live the life of a hermit? You’d think so.

The only problem with that is that Joe won’t leave him alone. Lanky, goofy, friendly Joe has a hot dog truck parked right outside the depot. Whereas Fin is a stoic person in a small body, Joe is very childlike in an adult body, and uncomfortable in long silences.

Before long, Olivia runs into Fin (well, doesn’t run into Fin is more accurate) and she, too, is drawn to him. Liv is troubled by recent events in her life, and she’s just plain uncomfortable in her skin.

With friendship come entanglements, obligations and the possibility of being hurt. If there is such a thing as “wrong reasons” for people to be friends, maybe that’s what Fin is trying to avoid. But he’s doing it badly.

I can’t say a heck of a lot happens in this film, so I had to wrack my brain a little bit to think of why I liked it at all. It comes down to Fin’s relationship with Joe. It seems natural that Joe can make friends with anyone, and when he latches onto Fin you’re glad for Fin, and for yourself. Because who wants to watch a film about a hermit?

Posted by James at 10:14 AM

July 20, 2004

I Robot - Impressions

Without time or inclination to write a full review, I’ll tell you what I think of I, Robot, which Maggie and I saw last night.

It ain’t Asimov, but it ain’t bad. It’s a sci-fi action film. Think ID4 or Total Recall rather than Artificial Intelligence.

We both liked Will Smith in it, but we nearly always like Will Smith. He’s got some fun lines, and the effects were good. The plot is well done. It’s a libertarian message. Aside from the usual silly inconsistencies of films like this, it’s thoroughly enjoyable. Don’t see it in lieu of Spider-Man 2. Some of the action was filmed in a distracting style, but there is plenty of fun.

And robots are cool.

Posted by James at 2:40 PM

Full Weekend -- With Seals

This past weekend was a pretty full one for us. Aside from all the work Maggie has been doing on the girls’ rooms, we somehow had time to fit some great activities in, the Stone family reunion, and some wildlife.


I took Friday off and we visited the Looff Carousel in Riverside, I. It’s the old Crescent Park carousel, and the kids had never been to it. Maggie and I had a number of times in the early years of our marriage.

Crescent Park Carousel is my all-time favorite carousel. In fact, before I rode it, I didn’t see much point to carousels. What makes this carousel worth your time (aside from its history as part of the old Crescent Park—“Coney Island of New England”, the beauty of it and the music) is what you can do while you’re on the carousel.

The expression “grab the brass ring” originates with carousels like the Looff. In this case a metal arm is extended once the carousel is in motion. The arm dispenses steel rings. If you dare, you can lean out on your horse (providing you’re riding on the outside ring of the carousel) and grab a ring from the arm. You hang onto it for a few moments and then can fling it away into the mouth of a giant clown painted on a canvas tarp. It’s a lot of fun.

In addition, there is always a chance that instead of a steel ring, a brass ring will come to the front of the dispenser as you go by. If you are lucky enough to catch this golden-colored ring, you hang onto it and will be awarded a free ride! I have gotten hold of that golden ring a couple of times in my carousel-riding career, and it almost happened again on this visit.

Sometimes, when the person in front of you slaps the arm the wrong way as they pass, the dispenser feeds down a ring without a ring being removed. In this case you see two rings, and they are a bit jammed. It’s easy to take the first ring, but if you try to take both you’re risking worsening the jam and getting no rings. On our first ride of the day I saw the golden ring jammed in the arm, behind a steel one. I reached out to grab both rings but I could not get my finger around them—I came away with only the steel one.

The lady behind me grabbed the golden ring, and when the operator sees someone do that he rings the bell loudly and/or whoops. I don’t know if she was just excited or didn’t notice, but when the clown came ‘round, she threw away the golden ring! She realized what she’d done immediately. I don’t know whether they gave her the free ride anyway. Probably.

Kit couldn’t reach the metal arm, so I spent my time catching rings and leaning forward on my horse to ferry them to her so she could throw them into the clown’s mouth. I had to undo my leather strap and balance precariously to do this, in violation of the signs. If it disturbed the operators, I didn’t notice.

You can see some pix of the construction and restoration of the carousel house here. You can also grab free MP3s of actual carousel music there. Spin around in your chair a bit and simulate a carousel ride! OK, it’s not quite the same thing.

The kids loved the carousel. Their fear of the moving horses (which had kept us away from carousels apart from some test-visits in their early lives) was overcome. After our 5 rides together (a lot of fun for only $10) we went kite flying in the park across the street from the carousel.

The wind was fickle, but cooperative enough for us to get a baby bat delta-wing kite in the air. Mattie was tenacious trying to get her diamond-shaped kite up there, but to no avail.

The park’s got a great view of the water and (kites or not) is a relaxing place to hang out. It was clean, well-groomed and peppered with the occasional friendly family-on-a-walk or dog walker.

We returned home through Barrington, past (St. John’s church where Maggie and I were married by her grandfather, the former pastor) and ate across the street in a Newport Creamery that has been around forever.

The next day proved to be even more exciting, however.

This was the day of the Stone family reunion. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, except that we’d be in Chatham and we’d be near the water. We packed up and left a little bit early for the Saturday ride to the Cape. Traffic was moderate—no worse than expected and not as bad as Boston rush hour traffic by a long shot.

We arrived before most of the guests and were shown three houses that the Moultons own (parents of cousins of my wife, by marriage). Geoff and Lisa Moulton (and their two daughters Melissa and Emily) were extremely gracious and thoughtful hosts. When we arrived, they’d already done a lot of preparation.

They had us pack our lunches from the wraps, sandwiches, cookies, chips and brownies provided and then we hopped in boats for a quick trip to an island just off the shore where they had a spot already picked out. The boat ride was a bit of fun for the kids, who sat on the bow, but we put them to work hauling gear to the beach site.

Once we got there we were greeted by an amazing sight. Between 50 and 100 gray seals were taking refuge in the water just off the shore of the island. Protected on a couple of sides by the island and a sand bar, they bobbed up and down at a distance that couldn’t have been over 100 feet. Literally, in 5 seconds of swimming I could have been among them, had I had the stamina to bear the cold water. (Yes, in the picture with the kids, those nearby dark shapes in the water are the seals… They were right there!)

Undeterred by frigid waves, the kids grabbed boogie boards and took to the sea. I assisted, which resulted in numb legs and feet early on. I kept looking over my shoulders at the seals, and it appeared they were getting closer every time I checked. They continued to bob there all day, seeming to watch us as we watched them. It was a wonder they were so calm and not worried about being so close to us.

When they got tired of the cold, the kids switched to the other side of the island, which faced the land. The water there was shallow and as warm as bath water. As they frolicked energetically in this calm, huge heated swimming pool, the adults talked or (in my case) made sand sculptures.

Late in the day we took to burying the children in sand, or had the children bury each other as the adults found themselves sapped of energy.

When we were ready to go we were whisked back to shore where amenities awaited us for cleaning up—making the long trip home much more comfortable. At this point I had to call this one of (if not the ) best beach visits of my life. In my haste, I missed a spot on my back when applying sunscreen and got a pretty nasty burn. But it was definitely worth it.

On the way home we stopped in at Chatham center for a relaxing look at the shops and a walk up and down the street.

We slept quite well that night.

On Sunday we were hoping to watch Outfoxed with Julie, but it didn’t arrive in the mail in time. Instead, we had some fun watching Louis Black and grilling some steak and burgers. Also, the native corn is in season, and the farm stand down the street always has the best.

Sunday allowed us to wind down a bit. For folks like us who are not usually socially active on the weekends, this one was big. I should also mention that in between every event, Maggie was working on building storage solutions for our daughters (from scratch). Soon she’s going to be a real carpenter.

Additional Links

Posted by James at 11:04 AM | Comments (4)

July 19, 2004

Spite vs. Hat

Some describe Bush as “all hat and no cattle.” I think that there are a couple of other descriptions that are more accurate.

As in his recent tiff with the NAACP he shows a fair bit of spite.

Perhaps he is “all spite and no nose.” Certainly one could point to a number of his actions and see spite in them. He can’t be described as “magnanimous” or “big” with his political opponents as president. (Reportedly, this is former First Lady Barbara’s influence)

I dunno. While it’s common to view Bush as a lightweight, I ht ink he’s a heavyweight when it comes grudges.

Posted by James at 4:04 PM | Comments (11)

Adjective Order

English language break! Do you think about the order of adjectives in your sentences? I don’t. I just know that we say “beige ceramic plate” rather than “ceramic beige plate” and “big blue marble” rather than “blue big marble.”

I, like most folks, picked it up by listening. But of course someone had codified it. You friends of mine in the professional writing industry are probably aware of that, but it was a bit of an odd surprise for me to stumble upon a chart of adjective order.

It makes sense to have such an order, but when you’re doing something unconsciously already it is strange to have someone tell you “this is what you’ve been doing.” Almost like realizing you’ve been sleepwalking.

Posted by James at 11:12 AM

Base Anxiety Disorder

Bush was warned that many of those in the nation (especially in the northeast) don’t take to authoritarian moves.

In response, Bass said, Bush ”looked at me like I was crazy.” The president ignored the advice and actively supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage that was defeated in the Senate last week.

[…]

”There is this residual fear from 1992. . . . They have ‘base anxiety disorder,’ ” the adviser said.

The Bush campaign is not entirely writing off moderates and centrists: The Republican convention in New York next month is designed to feature some of the party’s most broadly appealing figures […]

So, in 2000 they just said they were compassionate and uniters (that was Karen Hughes’ plan). Once in office, we were hit with the authoritarian / neocon crackdown. Now in 2004, they are afraid to stray from the base which has been eating up the stuff. So they’ll continue to hammer the base issues and present the more moderate voices at the high profile convention.

Can they afford to write off those that don’t take well to the Rovian heavy heel Bush has gotten used to using? I guess we’ll find out.

Posted by James at 5:20 AM

July 18, 2004

Be Prepared

The preparations are already underway for what to think about a Kerry presidency, once it has been accomplished. I think that’s great.

I this particular example, we see Kerry described as Carter. Once Kerry is in office, his strong support will evaporate and he will be under attack from different sides of the party.

Actually, I agree. This is what will happen. It ought to happen that way. There will probably be a “honeymoon” period, and then, in with the Democratic criticism. And, I daresay, that’s what ought to have happened with Dubya. But criticism on the right came far to late to be of any real use.

How will Kerry handle the criticism? Will the party splinter? Kerry is not a governor. He doesn’t think he’s a CEO. He’s been part of a deliberative body that exists to manage opposition and still come out with a resolution. He’s got more experience in a contentious environment (rather than an anointed one) than Dubya did, and probably more than Carter did when he took office.

Bring it on, I say.

Posted by James at 9:29 PM | Comments (4)

July 17, 2004

Off To the Cape

It’s off to Chatham for the Stone family reunion. Gas up the car, grab the binocs (for seal-watching excursions) and get ready to kayac, sail, canoe, etc.

I’ve got lots to post. More people took the Saltine challenge last week, and there was a new challenge this week. But I haven’t had a chance to sit still and write the stuff down.

Posted by James at 9:43 AM

July 16, 2004

Shotgun. It's not you, it's me.

Here is your post of posts. Don’t spend it all in one place. If I fail to credit you with a link you gave me, many pardons! I try, but my memory is leaking.

  • TMBG New Album Online
    • They Might Be Giants is distributing their new album online as MP3s, with no digital rights management crap in the files.
  • So a guy walks up to an ATM
    • The folks from Homestar Runner give you a new TMBG video!
  • Ben’s Game
    • “Ben Duskin, nine years old, is in remission from Leukemia. Throughout his course of treatment, Ben played computer games and began to think about the need to have something positive to help others kids battle their illnesses. Ben�s wish was to design a video game that would be helpful for kids like him who have cancer, a way to fight back and relieve some of the pain and stress involved with treatment.”
  • This Land Is Your Land (Flash)
    • JibJab has come up with the first really good song-length flash animation of this election cycle. Unfortunately, that site is being hammered at the moment, and I don’t know any mirrors. So you’ll have to come back later.
  • Dog Toy Or Marial Aid . Com (NSFW)
    • Is it a dog toy… or is it something else? You guess.
  • Keep Your Jesus Off My Penis
    • Reasonably funny song and video. But a little odd. OK, really odd.
  • Chicken Man?
    • Chuck sent this along earlier. Was this man really raised by chickens? Is it possible? There’s video, and it appears to be a real news story. I couldn’t find reference to the story on Snopes.
  • Living Room Candidate (videos)
    • A record of political television advertising over the years. How has the tone changed? Today’s featured commercial juxtaposes Clinton’s achievments with Dole saying he’d get rid of the Dept. of Education.
  • Insult Swordfighting
    • How good is your repartee? Can you choose the best response to the insult, and swordfight your way to success, or will you end up a 3-headed monkey?
  • Searchable Orwell
    • Search the full text of Animal Farm. While you’re at it, search a whole lot of other famous works.
  • Panic Support
    • This is an anxiety and panic attack support forum. Four more years of Bush and I’ll be spending most of my time there.
  • Olympics: Bruno Bozzetto (Shockwave)
    • Mr. Bozzetto once again brings us Mr. Otto. The poor guy can’t catch a break at the games. Thanks, Patty S.

[Updated! More links. Just because.]

  • Fun with Google Searches
    • Finding what doesn’t want to be found on other people’s machines.
  • Cat (video)
    • Cats should look where they’re going. This one is startled, and charges into a wall.
  • invisiblog
    • Completely anonymous blogging. Even they won’t know who you are. But, trust me, Ashcroft will root you out like the heathen you are. So don’t have any illusions.
  • Hulk’s Diary
    • God, even the Hulk has his own weblog. But it’s pretty funny.
  • Japanese Ice Cream
    • “Japanese ice cream, too, is unlikely to achieve the same giddy heights as raw fish — even though it’s one of the flavors it comes in. Judging by the tastes on offer at Ice Cream City in Namco Nanja Town in the Sunshine 60 building in Tokyo’s Toshima-ku, ice cream seems to be one aspect of Japanese Cool likely to be lost in translation. “
Posted by James at 12:16 PM | Comments (3)

Blame FURL

I’m sitting here, waiting for my water to boil for tea and I figured I’d write up this Friday’s shotgun post. Funny thing, though - I store my links for the shotgun post on FURL’s service, and FURL appears to be pooched (definition) this morning. When it comes back, I’ll do the shotgun post if I’m still in front of the computer. Today a picnic and visit to a carousel is scheduled.

[Update: It’s back! Working on the post…]

Posted by James at 11:23 AM | Comments (1)

July 15, 2004

Sinner Nation

Continuing a previous story.

This time it’s the Republican Party of Texas, President Bush’s home state, which has approved a plank in its platform affirming that “the United States of America is a Christian nation.” […]

On Hannity & Colmes, Gallagher asserted that the plank was a simple statement of a numerical fact. “If a neighborhood had 82 percent of the population that was Italian or a town had 82 percent of the population that was Polish, we’d call those communities Italian or Polish towns. So why do liberals have such a knee-jerk reaction when anybody dares to suggest that with 82 percent of the population being Christian�we are, in fact, a Christian nation?”

That from Cathy Young of Reason Online. (Article)

Clearly declaring the USA a “Christian Nation” is not about describing a numerical majority (as Ms. Young goes on to point out). If Texas Republicans are so hot to describe the country in terms of religion and majorities, why not also adopt a plank describing us as a “sinner nation?” After all, part of Christianity is recognizing that we are all sinners.

“Sinner nation.” Think it’ll catch on?

Posted by James at 11:04 AM | Comments (1)

Right Words, Right Time, Deaf Ears

“Can I or can any parent look into the eyes of an 18-year-old boy and with a clear mind and clear conscience say that we have exhausted every other option before sending him into the perils of conflict? �The world is watching us today as we show how the world’s last remaining superpower sees fit to use its great influence. We are looked to as we set an example for the world.”
- Congresswoman Connie Morella (R-Maryland) regarding giving Bush the authority to attack Iraq, prior to the War Powers Act vote.

From an article on Lew Rockwell but via Absit Invidia

Both places are worth stopping by. This from Lew Rockwell:

Too many trusting souls in this country believed George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney had their best interests in mind.

They didn�t.

At least the American people get a chance every four years for a performance review.

Posted by James at 9:53 AM

July 14, 2004

Parker Family Values

Best blog post I read today, on Notes on the Atrocities:

This word “values” is an invention of the Christian conservatives, not a time-honored element of conservatism. It is coded language to communicate to a secret society about very specific agendas. It says “your way of life is threatened, and you must eliminate the enemy.” Call it the “just say no” agenda. Beginning with Reagan, this faction of the GOP decided that it was their business to enforce a code of conduct. Though they used the language of universalism, they were actually trying to make laws that legally excluded people and behavior, the latest example of which is this preposterous gay-marriage ban. In fact, if you were going to describe this value in a single word (and you were an uncharitable partisan like me), you might use the word “distrust.”

Notes on the Atrocities: Values

It’s got a little bit of Spider-Man 2 spoilerage in it, but it talks about liberals, “values,” liberal values and a the heart beneath the recent summer blockbuster. Makes me want to see the film again. If you haven’t seen the film, come back and read this poast after seeing it, ‘K?

Posted by James at 11:09 PM

Bush Dealt Heavy Blow In Gay Marriage

Senate Blocks Bush Move to Ban Same-Sex Marriage

President Bush on Wednesday failed in his attempt to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage when a divided U.S. Senate blocked the measure, virtually killing it for at least this election year.

Owch, Dubya. Let’s look at what G.W. said way back when on the issue.

On a matter of such importance, the voice of the people must be heard […]

Well, Mr. Preznit, were you listening? Keep listening, because another important matter is who we choose for our president. In closing:

“We all know what this issue is about,” declared Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat. “It’s not about how to protect the sanctity of marriage. It’s about politics — an attempt to drive a wedge between one group of citizens and the rest of the country, solely for partisan advantage.”

Posted by James at 4:08 PM | Comments (4)

Anchorman (Capsule Review)

The Will Ferrellest movie of all time.

For Will Ferrell fans, this film holds a lot of laughs. It’s a little bit slow to start, but once Anchorman gets going it descends into a silliness that made me feel as if I was in Will Ferrell’s mind looking out through his screwy sense of humor. For a fan, that’s a good thing.

Set in the 70’s, this film plays up issues of sex discrimination with a humorous nonchalance and then U-turns over the top. Christina Applegate plays the worlds first female anchor who has thrown the news world of Ron Burgandy’s San Diego into chaos. She’s an excellent foil to the silly remainder of the cast, but the film doesn’t turn her into a stiff for the sake of contrast.

Often ex-SNL folks get criticised for making movies that are like one SNL sketch that runs too long. Anchorman is like a long sketch, but the jokes stay relatively fresh. Ferrell is in top form, and Steven Carell steals many a scene as the brainless weatherman who exists at a sort of amiable rodent-level of intelligence.

While the plot here is somewhat superfluous, it is substantial enough to provide fodder to refresh the jokes. Better still, it’s not formulaic. Look for a number of familiar comedic faces popping up at opportune moments, some just to move the plot along.

In short, this is a big win for Ferrell groupies and a great antidote to everything serious. To non-fans there is probably not too much repeat viewing value, since a lot of the humor comes of Ferrell saying nearly nonsensical unexpected things, but it’s worth seeing once. And Ferrellites will lap it up.

Posted by James at 3:52 AM | Comments (2)

July 13, 2004

Rock Hard Abs(tinence)

When I was in high school, they taught us about automobiles.

There are inherent risks in automotive transportation. So, for our education and protection, the teacher taught us abstinence. “The best way to protect yourself is not to drive or ride in cars. Stay away from compact cars, sport cars, sedans and even SUVs.” He was right, of course.

Those were valuable lessons, because later in life I always knew exactly what to do when I encountered cars: avoid them. To this day I thank the man for his wisdom and his effort which went into making me a more informed adult able to cope with my environment.

I sometimes shudder, and think of what would have happened if he had taught us driving or automobile safety. I think it would have encouraged some of the students to get in a car sometime and engage in risky behavior. You know, seat belts aren’t 100% effective in preventing injury. That’s something Detroit doesn’t want you to know, but it’s true.

Then there are the people that say “abstinence doesn’t work.” They say young people will naturally be curious about cars and will eventually try to use them or ride in them (despite being told not to), and when they do they will be without important knowledge about safety. That’s crazy talk. I mean, it’s not as though there’s some biological urge to drive. Those young adults can probably find something much more compelling than a Volkswagon Jetta to keep them busy. Like sex, for example.


So, this post was inspired by a news story someone passed along to me: Abstinence, Condom Controversy Erupts at AIDS Meet. A better title would have been Rampant Abstinence Disrupts Bangkok AIDS Meet. The person who was touting this article is anti-condom, and I thought it was funny to see this quotes within the article:

“It appears that this is naked pandering to an extremist constituency,” Sinding said.

“In an age where five million people are newly infected each year and women and girls too often do not have the choice to abstain, an abstinence until marriage program is not only irresponsible, it’s really inhumane,” Lee said

Using AIDS funding as a lever to socially engineer your beliefs is apparently “compassionate conservatism.” Of course abstinence plays a part in controlling AIDS, but the administrations policies punish those who do not agree with their approach. This ends up working for the disease, not against it.

As in other cases, the administration ignores reality infavor of ideology.

Posted by James at 10:43 AM | Comments (5)

July 12, 2004

Definitely Otherwise

Chuck posted about our fun visit on Saturday in “Unbecoming Levity :: Wise and Otherwise….”

We played a game “Wise and Otherwise” which he describes. In short, it’s like “Balderdash” and “Beyond Balderdash.” I was repeatedly impressed by my friends’ answers. Sometimes the most fun type of party games are the ones that are not focused on winning, or on moving pieces around a board, on building something or competing. Sometimes its best if the game just gives you occassion to make up silly junk and laugh a lot.

(Yes, I pulled out a win on Saturday, but having the game last a little longer is always more of a reward than winning was. The more “even” the players are in their scoring, the longer the game goes.)

Anyone know other games like that? Of course, “Once Upon A Time” is that sort of game as well, but since it’s not as structured you really need to be in a sharp, creative mood to come out with something good and have fun. What are some other games that let your creativity loose to produce laughs?

Posted by James at 5:39 PM

J-C-C



Jalopy. Chalupa. Chalabi, originally uploaded by drmomentum.

No, it doesn’t make sense. But when your best friend is a guy named “Curveball,” your whole world is a little skewed. The Wacky Iraqi.

Posted by James at 5:07 PM | Comments (1)

House of Sand and Fog (Review)

When the author of the book of the same name (House of Sand and Fog) first published his work, his wife sent a copy of the book to Ben Kinsley. She told him that Colonel Behrani shared the same silhouette. And it is true. Behrani, one of the main characters in this movie, has the regal, proud bearing that Ben Kingsley can project on the screen. So the part fit him like a glove.

And that is one of the best things about The House of Sand and Fog — the casting.

That’s not to say the film isn’t good otherwise, but this is a film that is very focused on its characters. There is Behrani, who was once a colonel in the Iranian army and was highly regarded in that position. Exiled from Iran with the rise of the ayatollahs, he is reduced to working a convenience store and on a road crew. When he happens upon a small water-view home that is scheduled to be auctioned off for nonpayment of taxes, it evokes memories of the Caspian Sea and plans to dig his family out of their situation.

Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) has been evicted from the house that her father left her and her brother. She’s barely holding her life together in the wake of substance abuse problems. Convinced it is a bureaucratic mistake, she first turns to a lawyer to get the house back. But it’s not long before she is interacting with the Behranis directly.

Across this seemingly-predictable collision drives Lester (Ron Eldard), a deputy sheriff with an inclination to help Kathy and who we know has bent the law in the past in the cause of what he knew was right and “slept like a baby” afterward.

Mrs. Behrani (Nadi, played by Shohreh Aghdashloo) knows nothing of her husband’s struggle, having been sheltered from it, She’s innocent and is focused on the happiness of her recently-married daughter and her son who must soon attend a university. Even though she is a citizen, her biggest fear is deportation and death at the hands of religious and political enemies.

Such a plot could certainly remain in previously covered territory. And I’m not talking about tragedy, because we know the conflict ahead is going to be tragic in its nature simply because of the intensity of the characters involved. I mean that it could go the way of the Pacific Heights stalker genre. The characters there are flat and you know their whole story up front because there is no story.

House of Sand and Fog succeeds, instead, with incredible performances that reveal subtleties of characters that are simultaneously ugly and sympathetic.

One interesting message, intentional or not, was the recurring theme of bathrooms/washrooms. Behrani hides his shame by changing in a hotel washroom; Kathy hides her homelessness by cleaning herself in public restrooms. Later in the film, many important moments happen in bathrooms.

But bathrooms aside, this film is worth your time as an enjoyable, dark drama, expertly and methodically performed.

Posted by James at 10:45 AM

The Butterfly Effect (Capsule Review)

It’s better than you’ve heard, I think.

The Butterfly Effect takes a sci-fi premise that is somewhat unique and uses it to explore an old genre favorite: the time-travel “what if” scenario. In this case, Ashton Kutcher has been living a life with some ugliness in his past. When that past comes back to haunt him, he discovers an ability to change past events

But (and you won’t be surprised by this at all) no matter how he changes the past, things don’t become perfect. Tweaking the past almost becomes an addiction (perhaps it is the gambling aspect) and Kutcher’s main character descends into a kind of madness.

What’s good about this film is that it aims for creepiness and achieves that with some decent characters woven into a many-sided plot.

The pieces of a jigsaw puzzle are thrown out in front of you at the beginning of the film, and you watch as some of them come together, and are then rearranged. And the ones which are left missing (to add mystery to the plot) are dribbled out to you over the course of the film.

It’s a formula that worked to keep me interested, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more teen-targeted films take that sort of care with the plot.

I saw the director’s cut which, apparently, has a different ending than the theatrical version. From what I read, the ending I saw is quite a bit better, which may explain some of the discrepancy between my opinion and what I expected. The theatrical release had a more crowd-pleasing ending which undermined the story.

Sure, Ashton Kutcher is not the next Ben Kingsley. But give the guy a break. In a movie like this, he doesn’t have to be. It’s aimed at a young crowd, and if you grade on that curve, this movie comes out a real winner. Compared to films like Final Destination this film kicks celluloid.

Posted by James at 5:10 AM

July 11, 2004

Wellfleet Go Boom

Blast sparks impromptu show in Wellfleet

''Watching this was much more fun," he said of the impromptu show. ''Especially now that we know nobody got hurt."


Some natives were not as thrilled.

Wellfleet Boom
Originally uploaded by drmomentum.
Posted by James at 3:22 PM | Comments (2)

July 10, 2004

Flickr and Frogs

Pictured here is our pet frog Sam. Sam is a dwarf clawed frog. So is her roommate, Ella. (Yes, my kids named them Sam and Ella. Samantha and Cinderella.)

We're not positive of the gender yet, but we think they are females.

Pictured here, Sam is floating up to the surface for air. This type of frog spends nearly all of its time under water.

On an unrelated note, I'm posting this image via "Flickr", a site designed for sharing images. I'm not certain what niche Flickr fills yet, but it does have a lot of neat features. One is a live chat feature where you can toss images back and forth in the discussion. Often the staff that runs the website is on hand to help.

I use PBase (paid account) to host my large images on the web, because it's geared toward photography and because it is fast and has a lot of space. Do I need Flickr if I already have PBase? I'm not certain yet. If you have some experience with Flickr, or decide to play around with it, let me know and I'll add you to my "friends."

sam floats
Originally uploaded by drmomentum.
Posted by James at 12:36 PM

Weekend Readers?

So - does anyone read this weblog on the weekend? If so, gimme a shout out just so I know you’re there. I’m usually slightly less active on the weekend and I’m wondering whether I should post more on Saturday and Sunday. If I know I have regular weekend readers, I’ll try to make a bit more of an effort.

Just to make this post worthwhile, here’s a drink recipe:

  • Newman’s Own Virgin Limeade
  • Vodka

Better than Mike’s Hard Lime. It’s like a quasi-vodka-gimlet. I haven’t tried it with gin yet. A virgin gimlet? The stuff is already a virgin gimlet without liquor. So we’d have to call it a lazy man’s gimlet. Eager to try it, but not tonight.

Speaking of Limeade, get a load of this:

Paul Newman now has his own Old-Fashioned Roadside Virgin Limeade to add to the tart lemonade line. While our testers liked it cut with water and served over crushed ice, we saw some people drinking it straight and puckering up with every sip. Available at grocery stores for $2.19 to $2.39 for a half gallon.

Cut with water? What the…1 I never even considered that. Puckering up with every sip? Who are these wimpy limeade-drinkers? Ryan, back me up here. I’ve never seen anyone cut this stuff. Cindy drank a quart on Thursday without batting an eye and we’re chugging this stuff daily. Wimps. Lightweights. I live for lime.

1 No one does “What the…” as well as Strong Bad.

Posted by James at 3:50 AM | Comments (38)

July 9, 2004

Kenny-Indicted. Bushwalked.

Ken Lay, Bush Donor. Major-League Pioneer.

Ken Lay Indicted

Mr Lay poured substantial sums into Mr Bush’s campaigns in what appeared to be a relentless quest for political influence

It’s perp-walk time.

Posted by James at 12:56 PM

July 8, 2004

Saltine Challenge

Yesterday, six fierce competitors took on a seemingly simple task which proved daunting. Could any of us eat six saltine crackers in under 60 seconds?

With a timer and a box of saltines we gathered at lunchtime for what will be known forevermore as: Saltine Challenge

While we each had out own style, and own approach to the task, we all learned a valuable lesson. And that lesson is: don’t ever mock the mouth-drying power of six saltine crackers. Not ever.

Yes, lunchtime around the office can get pretty bizarre. See for yourself.

Posted by James at 8:31 AM | Comments (13)

Touching the Void (Review)

Touching the Void tells the true story of Simon Yates and Joe Simpson, two climbers that attempted a never-before conquered summit: Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985.

Their story is remarkable because of the accident that left Joe horribly injured and unable to climb back down the mountain, but also for the decision Joe must come to at a point when he has reached a snag trying to lower Simon down the mountain himself.

The film follows the story as told by Joe in his book of the same name, but is narrated by Simon, Joe and Richard Hawking who awaited them in a mountain campsite. Dramatizations provide a view of the action while the people who were there give you their first hand feelings and perceptions.

This film is necessarily very personal, since the three participants spent most of their time either alone or alone with their thoughts. Almost as much of the drama comes from the psychological state of Joe as he repeatedly faces near-certain death, as comes from the gargantuan mountains and relentless ice and snow.

Included on the DVD are a couple of decent features. A “making of” gives you some insight into Joe’s return to Peru for the making of this film, and provides some perspective. Joe makes it pretty clear when he returns to the base camp that even he is not sure what emotions to attach to the place where he was ultimately found. As the filming wears on, he’s soured on the whole effort. But you wonder how deeply it is affecting him, and how it affects Simon as well. Could it not affect them? The events have clearly had huge lasting psychological effects.

Another informative feature is a completion of the story of what happened after Joe was discovered called “What Happened Next.” It was probably left out of the feature for time, but it really completes the story in an important way. The man made a mess of his leg, and I personally wondered how the heck he made it off the mountain.

But, then again, it’s exponentially more baffling and amazing that Joe made it down the slope at all on his own, and back to base camp.

It’s a gripping story, but it may not be for everyone. You might just wonder “why the hell did they do such a thing?” In that context, the drama might be overshadowed a bit. But whether you regard this story with admiration or bewilderment, the story is told well and it will certainly be of interest to folks who like mountaineering or adventure.

Posted by James at 2:15 AM | Comments (1)

July 7, 2004

Office White Tornado

You ought to see the carpets in our offices. I assure you, that beneath the stains there are carpets under there. When we first inherited our offices from the university (7 years or so ago), we noticed the carpets were messy and smelly, with numerous unidentifiable stains scattered everywhere. There was talk last year of replacing the carpets, but I have a feeling that minds changed on the matter. Instead, they sent in the cleaning brigade.

Now, people clean floors every day. What was amazing about our office cleaning was the number of people who brought their talents to bear on the problem. It took 3 people to vacuum my postage-stamp office. All throughout the day, there were different people wandering around. It appeared that there were only a couple of cleaning machines, so I have to wonder how many people it takes to work these machines.

The fun never starts!

I can almost swear that as each hour passed I saw different people coming in looking around, standing around for a while and then leaving. I saw at least 6 different people come in to stare at the pile of boxes at the end of the hall. That’s where we keep our copy-machine paper. Did they movie the boxes? Apparently, not enough manpower. However, they did spend a good deal of time regarding the boxes. “Hmmmm. Hmmmmmmmm. We gonna move those? Nope.

From all I could tell, these were decent folks. Unfortunately, they invaded like bulls in a china shop. No one bothered to ask about the electrical power situation.They blew the circuit breaker for our room, forcing us to go for a long walk. Programmers don’t get too much debugging done without electricity.

When we came back we found that their solution to tripping the circuit breaker was to simply switch to another plug. They left a number of offices without power for more than two hours. Not even the people in charge had the wherewithal to look for and flip the breaker back on. When we realized they had taken off for a break and didn’t plan to fix the electricity, we did it ourselves.

When they returned, they repeatedly caused power surges that shut my computer down a number of times. Hard restart anyone? Great for the motherboard and hard drive. Even after tripping the breaker, they didn’t bother to ask about other problems they might be causing. At that point, the day was creeping into the “loss” category.

In case anyone is wondering, this is why we’re glad most of the time that the campus facilities leave us alone. As long as the friendly and competent custodians stop by twice a week to empty the garbage and such, we’re generally happy.

And the carpets? Well, the cleanish spots now look even cleaner, which throws the stains into stark relief. Wunderbar!

This bitter rant brought to you by basically losing a day of work unexpectedly.

Posted by James at 9:11 PM | Comments (4)

Crash Bang Boom

Don’t run red lights. A video and the image shown here illustrate why not. Courtesy of Snopes (see link below).

The video on Snopes’ website was caught by a traffic monitoring camera. One car is sitting at the red light while traffic across the intersection is coming to a stop. Suddenly, a silver car runs the red light and is hit by an SUV coming the other way. Even more frightening, as the SUV skids and rolls it smacks into a pedestrian and goes over him. He was crossing against the signal.

This is another one of my pet peeves. Sure, I’ve crossed against the signal a number of times, but take a look at the pedestrian. He’s crossing dangerously but walking as if he’s in the park. He’s not even looking for traffic. I see this in the city all the time and it never ceases to amaze me—pedestrians walking as if there is some magic bubble protecting them. When I cross the street in the city, I assume some car is going to come bearing down on me any second. When I am with the kids and it is a wide street like the one here, I usually run across—with one of the kids under my arm!

As the video shows, the time to start running is not when trouble has already started. You won’t make it across.

So I offer this as a warning to pedestrians: Don’t be cool as you stroll across the street, especially if you don’t have the light in your favor. It’s unlikely that anyone is gunning for you on purpose, but do you really want to trust your life to just anyone who gets behind the wheel of a car? The average IQ is 100.

For those who do not intend to follow the link, the pedestrian survives. The dent that the cruiser makes in the SUV miraculously creates a hollow that allowed the pedestrian to escape the full weight of the vehicle as it rolls over him. Still, he was badly injured.

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Photo Gallery (Crash Landing)

Posted by James at 9:58 AM | Comments (1)

McCain In Bush Ads Make Me Laugh

I notice the news running stories about McCain as Bushies try to to rain on the Democrats’ parade. Something about Edwards being the second choice. As if McCain were really thrilled about Bush. Not sure where that came from. But try this on for size, from the DNC website: McCain on Bush.

Fire up your video player, sit back, and check out why McCain is such a great campaigner for GWB. If you’d rather read something, check out:

Doesn’t it suck for the Republicans that the Democrats are responding so quickly to Bush’s shenanigans this time around? As they say (or as they try to say) fool me once… (Check that out, if you have Flash)

Posted by James at 3:37 AM | Comments (7)

July 6, 2004

Booze For Bones

Moderate alcohol consumption could help protect women against osteoporosis, say researchers from a British hospital.

At FoodNavigator via Patti. As is customary to say when presented with such research, “I’ll drink to that.”

Posted by James at 5:14 PM

America Chooses Bush!

“AMERICA CHOOSES - Bush re-elected!”

That’s the headline I’m hoping to see on the front page of the NY Post on the day after the election in November. Why? Because this is on the front page today:

“KERRY’S CHOICE,” read the headline over the page one “exclusive” story. “Dem picks Gephardt as VP candidate.” The story, which ran without a byline, was accompanied by a file photo of the Missouri congressman and the Massachusetts senator.

But the excuse was great:

Post editor-in-chief Col Allan said in a statement that he made the decision to go with the Gephardt story based on information that turned out to be inaccurate. He did not elaborate.

I guess it would be unusual to try to get accurate information before printing a story, huh? Well, it’s not like they started a war over it or anything. So, no biggie. But still, pretty funny. FOX cousin (Murdoch-owned) New York Post… your place for inaccurate news.

Posted by James at 4:09 PM | Comments (3)

It's Edwards, says AP

Yahoo! News - Kerry Picks Edwards to Be Running Mate

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry selected former rival John Edwards to be his running mate, telling supporters he couldn’t wait to see the freshman North Carolina senator going “toe-to-toe with Dick Cheney.”

We’ll find out for certain later today.

[Update: Should have checked my email. I have an email from Kerry to his supporters that he will indeed announce Edwards as his running mate. From that email: ‘In the next 120 days and in the administration that follows, John Edwards and I will be fighting for the America we love. We’ll be fighting to give the middle class a voice by providing good paying jobs and affordable health care. We’ll be fighting to make America energy independent. We’ll be fighting to build a strong military and lead strong alliances, so young Americans are never put in harm’s way because we insisted on going it alone.” Go get ‘em.]

Posted by James at 10:01 AM | Comments (4)

July 5, 2004

Among Geese and Garciaparra

I never did post an entry about my last day on vacation, so here’s the quick lowdown.

We finally made it to the Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary that we’d tried to get to during the previous week. There are a few pictures from the trails among these holiday snaps (check the captions — some art from the aquarium instead).

We had a fun close encounter with some geese. We watched the big turtles for many minutes as they swam beneath the water among the lilly pads and the as-yet-unidentified fish. We found little treasures, we chased dragonflies, and had a general good time.

When I told the women who were running the sanctuary office where we were from, she mentioned to us that she’d been through our town before and had heard that the place to go for ice cream was The Somerset Creamery. (Their website is currently a placeholder, but you can catch the old website here via the Wayback Machine)

A mere mention of Somerset Creamery was enough for us to work it into our plans for the day. But we were in no rush, so we drove home via the back roads, which is always more interesting than the highway. Always carry a road map. It facilitates adventure.

After returning home we visited the noted ice cream parlor and found a new special flavor; Cherry Garciaparra! The whimsical name evokes both the Red Sox shortstop and the famous Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor, but it differs from its famous cousin in that it is made with black cherry ice cream rather than vanilla ice cream. [CORRECTION: They are both indeed cherry ice cream. See comments] However it is made, I verified that it is a delicious flavor and I hope it becomes a permanent menu item. I encourage you to give it a try if you’re ever in the area (Route 6 in Somerset, MA near the Venus De Milo restaurant)

A walk in the woods followed by an ice cream cone is indisputably time well spent on summer vacationing.

Posted by James at 11:55 AM | Comments (10)

July 4, 2004

Fahrenheit 4/09

Army Stage-Managed Fall of Hussein Statue (LA Times, free registration required)

As the Iraqi regime was collapsing on April 9, 2003, Marines converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, site of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a Marine colonel — not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images — who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.

So, we’ve got our armed forces using psy ops to create propaganda there for consumption back home.

Michael Moore, in producing F911, has taken facts (not under dispute) and presented them in a manner that bolsters his opinion about the Bush administration, the rationale for the war and the prosecution of the war. He didn’t stage soldiers. He didn’t stage Bush doing this or that. Yet he’s been harshly criticized as a propagandist by such wankers right-wingnut activists as Move America Forward.

You have the choice to see Moore’s film, or not to see it, and you’ve got reviewers to tell you a little bit about the film before you decide. The events of April 9th, 2003 which were staged for your viewing pleasure and then reported as news on every TV station (and, incidentally, funded by taxpayer money which could have been spent making the world safer) were foisted upon you without your choice. As long as you were trying to stay at all informed, you saw that propaganda thanks to an eager media.

Do you think all those people outraged at Moore’s admitted op-ed piece will rise up and criticize our administration for its efforts to feed us a line of bull?

Don’t hold your breath. And every time you hear someone criticize someone like Moore for expressing an honest, heartfelt opinion by presenting you with facts, think about how some people have had to manufacture their “facts.”

Posted by James at 2:16 PM

Dodgeball

Bull is in town for the 4th and we needed something to do on the evening of the 3rd, so a wonderful idea occurred to me. Park at the Providence Place Mall, walk to Trinity Brewhouse, patronize that establishment until well lubricated, then crawl stumble walk back to the mall and catch a movie. I let Bull pick the film and he wisely chose Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, a film that is enhanced by pre-viewing lubrication. It was a good time.

Trinity offered decent dinner fare and great beer, as usual. We particularly appreciated the IPA and Red Ale.

On to the film. It’s as funny as a bag of wrenches. That is, if Rip Torn is sitting in a wheelchair, throwing said wrenches at Vince Vaughn and his gang. Vince plays the same basic character he’s come to play in films of this type (see Old School ). His straight delivery and good comic timing enhances the zaniness around him. The goofy cast of characters is well-stocked with sad sacks. Stephen Root (Milton, from Office Space ) is a middle-aged cuckold with a mail-order bride who hates him. Alan Tudyk thinks he’s a pirate. Justin Long (also seen in Galaxy Quest as the uber-fan who helps save the day) is the high school student with dreams of cheerleading.

The group is inevitably joined by Christine Taylor because the formulaic love interest who can throw a mean dodgeball must be present.

Ben Stiller is the over-the-top villain who drives the plot. As a fat-obsessed gym-owner who wants to buy Vaughn’s “Average Joes” gym, he exudes a manic creepiness and throws off nonsensical gotcha quotes left and right.

“Nobody makes me bleed my own blood. NOBODY.

and

“You’re going down like a sweet muffin!”

The sad sacks try to save their gym by competing for money in a Vegas dodgeball tourney. But they’re seriously deficient until they catch the eye of Rip Torn as “Patches O’Houlihan.” He’s got my favorite line from the film. “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!”

In the mix are a number of funny cameos (which I won’t reveal) and decent small performances by folks like Jason Bateman as an air-headed sportscaster, Jamal Duff as Stiller’s assistant, a big bouncer-type fellow oddly named Me’Shell, and William Shatner as the Chancellor of Dodgeball.

Sure, this film is all formula and doesn’t break any new comedic ground. But, dammit, it’s funny seeing people get belted with wrenches and balls, and there are enough funny lines and Vince Vaughnery to keep you in stitches.

Posted by James at 12:03 PM

July 2, 2004

Quiznos: A Review

A Quiznos opened up in Dartmouth. Therefore, we had to try it out. Derek was very excited, and since he was the only one of the people in the office who’d ever eaten at Quiznos, we were excited, too.

Quiznos was mentioned earlier on this weblog because of their previous, really weird commercials. But a sub place lives or dies based on the quality of its food, not its commercials. Quiznos assembles its sub in a couple of stages. Initial ingredients and sauces are placed on the sub roll, then the bun is run through the toaster-conveyor contraption. On the other end of the machine, someone else finishes the sub, wraps it, and hands it over.

We went on the grand opening day and I had their Black Angus on Rosemary Parmesan Bread. It was excellent, and the 2 other people who ordered it agreed. Toasting is definitely an idea whose time has come. Better still, they were still getting used to the store and when they ran out of register tape, they sent us on our way without having to pay. (Unfortunately for Derek, he’d already paid). Very friendly staff.

Having gotten our first lunch for free, we went back the next day and I tried the meatball sub. It was also very good, but their Black Angus was definitely better. The meatballs and sauce could have been spicier, but it was definitely a respectable sub.

While we were waiting in line, they let us try some of their cookies. One was a peanut butter cookie with Reese’s Pieces. It was as delicious as it sounds. The other was an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Many will disagree, but I think it would have been better with some raisins. Both cookies were extremely rich. And they ran them through the toaster machine, so they seemed fresh when they came out. I don’t know if they always do that, or if you have to ask.

On our way out yesterday, we waved at the person in a Quiznos fountain drink character outfit who was doing a surreal dance on the side of Faunce Corner Road. When we drove by a second time, the dance was over. That was sad.

The prices are decent, but not cheap. We will definitely be going back.

Posted by James at 3:54 PM | Comments (7)

Brian Invades the Net

It’s a Bri Wise world. You’re just living in it.

My longtime friend Brian (see previous post) has evacuated Massachusetts and invaded the Internet. Any time one of my friends invades the blogosphere is a time to rejoice, as they are all uniquely insane. Brian has relocated to the left coast and will surely hit his blogging stride early, as he always has much to say. Glad he’s decided to say it to the world. Welcome, BriWei!

Posted by James at 12:57 PM | Comments (2)

Shotgun Post? Yes Please.

  • The Gastrix (movie file)
    • Tiny parody of The Matrix. With gas.
    • “Do you think that’s air you’re breathing?”
  • Motorcycle Bang (movie file)
    • I don’t know the story behind this video. I hope the woman is OK, but it may have been staged. She appears to explode as the motorbike goes by.
  • My Pet Goat
    • In years to come there will be a trivia question. “What book was Bush reading while the 9/11 attacks on America were unfolding?”
    • To quote Ebert: “The look on his face as he reads the book, knowing what he knows, is disquieting.”
    • UPDATED - The actual book is called Reading Mastery Level 2 Storybook 1 and the story is “The Pet Goat”
  • Mailinator
    • A truly useful site for making instant disposable email addresses when you don’t want someone (a person or a spammer) to know your real address, but you do want them to be able to contact you.
    • Anywhere you are, just make up an email address like james@mailinator.com or circus.mailinator.com or fred1234@mailinator.com. Give the address out. Later, go to the website and enter the username (james, circus, or fred1234, for example) and read any mail you find. Remember, there’s no password, so anyone else can read it, too. But you don’t care, because this is perfect for contests and other sign-ups where you only want to check one auto-generated reply and never want to use the address again. Nifty and absolute minimal hassle.
  • Farewell Letter, from Bush to Rowland
    • This is whitehouse.org’s parody resignation letter from GWB to John Rowland on his “TRAGIC FORCED RESIGNATION BY RUTHLESS LIBERAL ETHICS NAZIS
  • Stinkfactor: Milk Challenge (movie files)
    • I’ve mentioned Stinkfactor before. The brave people at that website take on challenges from each other. Eating cinnamon, hot sauce, live crickets for example. But this milk challenge is new. Don’t watch unless you want to see what happens when someone tries to quickly drink a whole gallon of whole milk in less than 30 minutes.
    • Just in case you don’t know, your body cannot digest or accept a gallon of whole milk. The results are inevitable in nearly every case. But hey, at least the stuff is white.
  • God Hates Figs
    • Eat a fig. Go to hell.
    • “He destroyed their vines with hail and their sycamore-figs with sleet.” — Psalm 78:47
  • Alice In Wonderland Interactive Flash Movie (shockwave)
  • Guide To Lockpicking
    • Learn a valuable skill.
  • Old Superstitions.com
    • A database of old superstitions. Neato!
  • Sink Ya Drink (flash game)
    • Experience the effects of drinking in this little flash game. Pay close attention to the bartender as you advance in levels…
  • The Phone (shockwave)
    • Not Banabaphone. Different.
  • Saluting the Sloganator (flash)
  • Here’s to you, Bush/Cheney’04. So long and thanks for all the fun.
Posted by James at 10:31 AM | Comments (2)

July 1, 2004

Spider-Man 2 (Review)

In short, Spider-Man 2 has got action and humor and they haven’t screwed up the characters.

But beyond that, Raimi has reinforced what drives Spider-Man, and given that to us in a way that understands why we love this superhero so much and where in our hearts we connect with him. It’s a great summer blockbuster worthy of all the good press its getting. And it’s well worth the price of admission.

Tobey Maguire returns as the web slinger in a thoroughly satisfying sequel which surpasses the original Spider-Man. With his origin out of the way, we’re able not to more deeply explore the consequences becoming Spider-Man has had on Peter Parker’s life. Isolated from his friends Mary Jane (Kirstin Dunst) and Harry Osborne (James Franco) and failing in normal life, Peter’s problems begin to spill out beyond their previous boundaries.

But, as always, there is a mounting danger. This time, it is in the form of Dr. Otto Octavius played much differently than I expected by Alfred Molina. Doc Ock has never been one of my favorite villains, I confess, but Molina and director Sam Raimi have really created a completely new character. The comic book Dr. Octopus had his own complexities going for him, but the new character fits neatly into the film.

Some reviewers called the beginning slow and I found myself being glad they were taking time with the plot. The action is meted out, which is a wise decision in my opinion. Raimi could easily have made an empty film with lots of CGI. In the earlier days of computer special effects, that alone might have filled the seats and sold popcorn. Are CGI finally starting to become so commonplace that a good director must turn to characters and plot to keep an audience interested? Jackson used CGI in Lord of the Rings rather then being used by it, and Raimi doesn’t wallow in effects either. This trend (if it is one) bodes well for the future.

The focus is on Peter and his decisions. Spider-Man is always about the consequences of the decisions we make. In life, this is something we all face. Will we comport ourselves with dignity, humility and grace? With bravery, generosity and sacrifice? Or will we pursue our desires to the exclusion of all else?

We know the decision that Peter Parker will ultimately make. Or, at least we think we do. We know a bit about what drives him. But, as in life, we can never know the consequences. The best we can do is be true to who we are, lead with our strengths and draw power from our honesty.

This film surpasses the first because the stakes are higher and Raimi has chosen to remove some traditional comic book obstacles which allows growth in Peter’s character and opens up wider possibilities for sequels (which will almost surely happen). In short, rather than painting the franchise into a corner, Raimi may be expanding it into more complexity.

There are a lot of welcome notes in this film. A number of moments of warm laughter in commiseration with Peter are extremely endearing. Also, Raimi once again gives us bystanders who are more than just extras, but characters who drive a central point home. Heroes are not people in a made-up story on the screen. Heroes come from a place inside of us. We celebrate heroic spirit and accomplishments in song and story. But heroes themselves can only exist if we nurture courage and conscience inside ourselves and sacrifice to make them a reality.

Is there a more worthy foundation to build a summer blockbuster on?

Posted by James at 12:35 AM | Comments (1)