Y'all, 2007 has been a blast and I hope that those few of you who have stopped by here regularly have enjoyed reading my humble offerings this year as much as I have enjoyed writing them.
We're closing up shop for the next two weeks while my lovely fianceé and myself enjoy a pre-wedding honeymoon in Italy. Check back in sometime roundabout the 16th of January for a complete report on Italian hijinks, more photos than you can shake a stick at and a resumption of your not-quite-daily Nerdiness.
Take it easy, y'all, and try not to trash the place while we're gone.
There are now fewer than twenty-four hours left in the year 2007 (as I write this in the Pacific time zone).
This time tomorrow, it's going to be all champagne and people mumbling along to "Auld Lang Syne" (because, seriously, does anyone actually know the words to that thing anymore?) and fireworks.
Then, it's going to be hour-long waits for tables at Denny's for passable eggs and sausage and terrible coffee to kill the hangover and fill the awkward silences between people who barely remember what they did with each other after the party. That, and the Rose Parade.
The day after, it's going to be all, "This is the year I lose weight" and "This year, I'm resolving to quit smoking, and this time, I really mean it."
Then it's going to be LSU smoking the Buckeyes in the BCS Title Game.
And then, before you know it, it's going to be December 31, 2008, and you'll be wondering where another year went.
In this space last year at this time, you may recall that I made some resolutions. Let's take a look back and see how I did:
I resolve to watch old-school Star Trek reruns whenever possible.
Done, and with very little difficulty.
I resolve to give my D&D players something more interesting to do than fight yet another band of Orcs.
Not done. I had depressingly few opportunities for gaming this year.
I resolve not to bitch too much about Spider-Man 3, no matter how much it sucks.
It sucked about as much as I thought it would, which was some, and I feel I successfully kept my complaints to a minimum, especially compared to the "It's the worst movie ever!" hue and cry raised by the internet nerdosphere.
I resolve to catch up on reading the nerdy essentials I've been meaning to get around to for years, the Arthur C. Clarke, the Kim Stanley Robinson, the Robert Heinlein, and not spend all the time I could be doing that rereading "Watchmen" and old Batman comics.
Well, I don't think I read "Watchmen" cover-to-cover once this year...but I certainly didn't read any Clarke, Robinson or Heinlein cover-to-cover either.
I resolve to incorporate at least 15% more "Simpsons" references into my daily conversation.
Nope, don't think I managed it.
I resolve not to spend September and October getting needlessly excited about the Denver Broncos' Super Bowl chances, and instead skip directly to the inevitable jaded letdown that usually accompanies November and December.
I'd like to extend a heartfelt thanks to the Boys in Predominantly Orange for sucking balls right out of the gate this season, making this one of the easiest resolutions ever to keep.
I resolve to get one o' them Wiis or XBoxes or PlayStations or whatever that the nerds are all excited about these days. Or not.
Nope. Maybe next year.
I resolve to wear more humorous t-shirts.*
Failure. I'm finding very few so-called "humorous" t-shirts to my liking these days, and I go more and more to plain, unadorned ones in a variety of hues.
I resolve to determine once and for all whether the Jedi Knights could beat the Green Lantern Corps in an all-out fight.
What a silly resolution! This one's like the age-old question about how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop: the world may never know.
I resolve to get a new pair of Chuck Taylors and wear them until they are little more than a loosely connected string of shoe molecules.
Working on it. The ones I bought this year have leather uppers and are proving surprisingly resilient. I think I may wear through the soles before the uppers, which would be a first.
I resolve to be prolific in the creation of webcomics, hilarious cartoons for YouTube distribution, snarky blog entries, and other such things associated with the modern, well-connected nerd.
Webcomics? Sadly, no. Snarky blog entries? Well, you be the judge.
I resolve to see at least one embarrassingly, horrifyingly nerdy movie in a theater this summer, whatever this year's equivalent of Alien vs. Predator might be. If there's more than one to see, so much the better.
Well, I never did make it to Live Free or Die Hard, and I had no idea when I wrote this that this year's equivalent of Alien vs. Predator would, in fact, be Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. But, sadly, I'm leaving the country for two weeks and I suspect that AvP:R will be long gone from theaters by the time I get back.
I resolve to spend many, many hours playing complex boardgames with rulebooks longer than an average Victor Hugo novel.
I resolve to build a functioning trebuchet at my friend's cabin this summer.
Sigh...maybe next summer.
I resolve to learn the ancient art of Tae Kwan Leap. Boot to the head!
Well, you know what they say: Tae Kwan Leap is not a path to a door, but a road leading neverending unto the horizon. To a true student, a year is as a day.
I resolve, in short, to be the kind of nerd that makes other nerds proud to be nerds.
I can only hope that I have done this.
On the whole, I believe I've accomplished quite a lot, nerdistically speaking, in 2007, and things are looking bright for 2008.
Timestamp: 12/31/2007 01:17:00 AM
Steve Martin's classic SNL "Christmas Wish" sketch:
The end of the all-time classic TV Christmas special:
And of course, an Old Classic must be followed up with a New Classic:
From the 2nd-place entry on the all-time classic TV Christmas special list:
And finally, a Festivus for the rest of us:
Whether you're all about the Jesus or, like me, a celebrator of American Secular Christmas, merry Christmas, everybody!
Timestamp: 12/24/2007 09:43:00 PM
Greetings, one and all, from sunny and (relatively) warm California! Oaktown, represent, yo! Well, Emeryville, represent, yo, anyway. The flight was early as hell but blessedly uneventful.
Do you want to know what is my very favorite thing about flying? Is it the half a Coke and seven pretzels they grudgingly give you? Nope. The seats built for hobbits? Nope. The best thing about any airplane journey is the opportunity to peruse the SkyMall Catalog. Usually, the various SkyMall merchants average a pretty solid 90 out of 100 on the Unintentional Comedy Scale. Hammacher Schlemer tells you about the results of rigorous testing of robotic vacuum cleaners at the "Hammacher Schlemer Institute," one of the most highly respected scientific institutions to be associated with sellers of absurd yuppie gadgetry. Frontgate offers you no fewer than seventeen different ways to store and conceal your garden hose. You can get your favorite NFL, MLB, NCAA or NASCAR logo on everything from wristwatches to bedroom slippers to billiard balls. Every retailer (save, perhaps the fine, highly motivational folks at Successories) offer you a high-tech bed for your dog and a fancy water-circulating drinking fountain for your cat.
But today, my friends, the current issue of SkyMall provided a solid-gold 100 out of 100 on the Unintentional Comedy Scale. The Sharper Image (who else?) is offering, as you can see in the above photo, the "Alive Elvis Animatronic Robot." The description in the catlog describes in exacting and creepy detail how you, the proud owner of this insane way for rich Baby Boomers to throw away their disposable income now that the kids are out of college, can "touch his soft hair and sideburns, stroke his skin, feel his 1968 leather jacket, look into his clear baby blues." So, yeah...the Sharper Image has produced some sort of fucked up Elvis fetish robot, apparently.
Yes, for the low, low price of
$299.95 - No, it's now sale-priced at just $199.95, a bargain at twice the price! - you can have your own lifelike Elvis robot with a variety of control options. Press "Monologue" on your remote and RoboElvis will, "share moments from his life and times." Choose "Song" and he'll sing one of eight of his many hit songs. Choose "Sing Along," and you can sing along with "The King." And if there's any lingering doubt that this is a fucked up Elvis fetish robot, there's the fourth option, "Alive." If you choose "Alive" on your remote, "Elvis comes to life — checking you out and talking you up."
And because I know you've been wondering, the rumors are true, "you can plug in your iPod® or other audio source to enjoy your own music in sync with Elvis."
Whatever the fuck that means.
Timestamp: 12/20/2007 03:11:00 PM
In about ten hours, we're departing for a rainy Christmas. We'll be in northern California, where it snows half an inch every fifteen years or so, but dumps bridge-destroying rains into the Russian River pretty much every year.
Last year, Mle wished for a white Christmas, and she got it in spades. Last year, a few days before the Big Day, we got absolutely dumped on. Two feet of snow in less than 24 hours. This year, I'm wishing for a dry Christmas. Let's hope I get my wish.
Honestly, I couldn't care less about the whole "white Christmas" thing. Some people - from the northeast and upper midwest, I suppose - say it doesn't feel like Christmas unless there's snow. To me, it makes no difference. People are usually surprised to learn that it almost never happens in Colorado. We don't usually start getting heavy snow until later in the season. When we have gotten snow before Christmas, it has often melted off by the time the day itself rolls around. And it almost never actually snows here on 25 December. Snow, no snow, makes no difference to me.
But rain? Rain on Christmas? What the hell?! That just ain't right, man.
I really don't think I'm going to get my wish. And I don't think that the Cat in the Hat is going to show up to liven up the day as I mope around Mle's mom's house, staring gloomily out the window. The World's Wiggliest Dog will be there, which will be good for a few laughs...but that dog needs to be fetched with, and rainy, wet weather will prevent anything more exciting than throwing the wet, slobbery ball ten feet down the hallway, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. If there's a few dryish hours, I'm absolutely taking that dog somewhere where she can do some real fetching.
Still, I don't mean to make it sound all bad, 'cuz it's sure not. Mle's family is great (if
vastly a bit louder than my own) and I'm wicked excited about giving Mle her Xmas present. So that's pretty good.
Timestamp: 12/19/2007 03:17:00 PM
First, Ken Jennings notes that yesterday was the 30th anniversary of Elvis Costello (and the Attractions, too, I suppose) being banned for more than a decade from SNL because they decided to play a kickass song instead of a just-okay song:
Second, the nerdier elements of the internet are buzzing with near-orgasmic glee at the news that Peter Jackson and the suits at New Line have settled their lawsuits and feuds and such. The ultimate gist of this news is that Peter Jackson's name will be attached to the forthcoming film adaptation of The Hobbit.
To which I say, settle down, my nerdy brethren, settle down.
I am pleased, I suppose, and I hope that the movie is good. But all the "O frabjuous day, calloo callay" shit is pointless. PJ is not going to be directing it. His name is going to be on it, as "Executive Producer." This means his creative involvement is likely to be essentially nil.
Now, the assumption that only PJ could possibly direct a great (or even merely good) Hobbit movie has always baffled me. The Star Wars movie that is pretty much universally regarded as the best of the bunch is one of the ones that George Lucas didn't direct, after all. I've never understood all the "If Jackson doesn't direct it, I won't see it" bullshit that a certain kind of nerd has been spewing all over the internet for the last couple of years. Sam Raimi or Guillermo del Toro, two names rumored to be possible directors for The Hobbit, could both potentially do a fine job. I'm not bothered by the idea that Jackson won't be directing. I'm just not going to get a huge nerdboner over the news that his name is going to be on the thing. It's sort of akin to the cash-in novels that were released shortly after Isaac Asimov's death that said, in great big letters on the cover, "ISAAC ASIMOV'S ROBOTS PLAYING POKER," and then in teeny-tiny letters down at the bottom, "by Bob Smith," or the line of comics that was released in the mid-'90s with big names attached, titled things like "Neil Gaiman's 'Mr. Hero'," even though Gaiman didn't actually write a single issue.
The only major upside to this news is that it means it's likelier that some of the talent who might have stayed away out of loyalty to PJ will return. I'd like to see Ian McKellan, Hugo Weaving and most especially Andy Serkis reprise their Rings roles.
Oh, and, since I'm sure the casting people are reading this (I mean, why wouldn't they?), I'd just like to mention that Brian Blessed is Thorin Oakenshield. Think about it.
Timestamp: 12/18/2007 04:26:00 PM
An Open Letter to the Doola! of 1995:
Listen, kid...it gets better. You know all those people who talk about how you need to appreciate where you are right now because high school is the best time in your life? Yeah, they're every bit as full of shit as you suspect they are. Perhaps even moreso. Trust me, it gets better.
Oh, not right away, to be sure. I'm not gonna lie to you, kid, you're going to spend most of your twenties figuring out what the hell to do with yourself. But you're going to figure it out. You're not going to be an Oscar-winning filmmaker (yet, anyway). But it's really okay. You're going to wind up doing something that you really love, and are really good at. The best part is that you're going to be doing it because it's what you want to do, not because it's what you think will finally make your parents approve of you or what anyone else expects or wants.
Another piece of good news: being a nerd is going to turn out not to be such a bad thing. As it happens, there are a number of great girls out there who actually like guys who are smart and funny and kind of odd. There's even one girl out there who is going to notice you pretty much directly because of all those hours you've spent watching "Monty Python's Flying Circus." Just remember that your two chief weapons are surprise, fear and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.
There's going to be at least two totally kick-ass "Spider-Man" movies, two totally kick-ass "X-Men" movies, and a dude from New Zealand is going to make "The Lord of the Rings" as an entire trilogy of movies and it's going to be the most totally kick-ass thing ever to cross the cinema screen.
Just...be patient. Things are going to work out pretty well. You're going to see the country and the world. You're going to hit 30 happy, healthy and less than a year away from getting married to someone amazing. There's some rough patches between now and then, but you're going to ride them out and come out wiser and stronger on the other side. You're going to laugh about all the things that seem like the worst things in the world now, first because you're going to realize how trivial they were, and second because you're going to have to deal with worse before it's all said and done. But getting through the tough times is going to be worth it. Trust me.
You + 12
P.S. The good news is that George Lucas is finally going to make Star Wars Episodes I, II and III. The bad news is that...well, I don't think I have the heart to tell you.
Timestamp: 12/13/2007 10:19:00 PM
Terry Pratchett, gentleman, scholar, and in the running for the coveted title of Funniest Author Alive, has announced that he has an early-onset form of Alzheimer's.
This just sucks.
Bad things happen to good people, and that's the way of the world, but this just ain't right.
Good Omens, which Pratchett co-wrote with the great Neil Gaiman, is way, way up near the top of any list of my favorite books, genre or otherwise. Not even the much-vaunted Hitchhiker's Guide made me laugh as much as Good Omens. The book opens with the Earth's horoscope based on Bishop James Ussher's famous and absurd down-to-the-minute calculation of the Earth's age (Earth's a Libra). It gets funnier from there, offering the theory that all cassettes left in the car for longer than a fortnight transform into Best of Queen (which means that Satan communicates with his servant Crowley in the voice of Freddy Mercury), presents us with the Other Four
Horsemen Motorcyclists of the Apocalypse (including Greivous Bodily Harm, Really Cool People and Treading in Dogshit), and in a bit of characteristically British (but still funny to Americans) humor, explains the dubious origins of things like the M25 Motorway, Value Added Tax and Manchester.
Somehow, even though I've devoured pretty much everything else Gaiman has written, I never got around to reading any more Pratchett until recently. While visiting a bookstore, I mentioned this oversight to my soon-to-be mother-in-law, and she was slightly horrified. She decided to rectify this error on the spot and bought me a copy of Going Postal, one of Pratchett's Discworld novels. I rather liked it, and have since started reading more of his stuff. I'm in the midst of The Colour of Magic, which is his first foray into Discworld, and therefore a bit uneven, but still hilarious and entertaining.
We attended a book signing he did a couple of years ago (where he was the first to sign that battered copy of Good Omens; Gaiman added his signature a month or so later), and he was quite personable and funny and entertaining, just as you'd expect.
Anyway, I'm writing this like it's a eulogy, which it's not. Pratchett is facing his diagnosis with "a mild optimism," and is still certainly more than active and lucid enough to complete several more books.
Still, this sucks.
Timestamp: 12/12/2007 10:02:00 AM
...here's "American Idol" contestant Kellie Pickler making Miss Teen South Carolina look like Einstein and Jessica Simpson look like Carl Sagan. Watch and weep for the future.
Well, not necessarily so much. The kid at least knows the answer right away and is instantly laughing in disbelief and rolling his eyes as the camera focuses on Miss Pickler's dull, empty, cow-like eyes.
I'm not saying that everyone ought to know their world capitols, but for FUCK'S SAKE! There's a fine line between "uneducated" and "ignorant," and an even finer one between "ignorant" and "stupid." The finest line of all is between "stupid" and "OH MY GOD, HOW DOES YOUR BRAIN GENERATE ENOUGH ENERGY TO KEEP YOU BREATHING?" Miss Pickler has erased all of these lines.
It's also worth noting that I'm a little amazed that, given the shared accent and region of origin, Jeff Foxworthy was able to resist busting into an impromptu "You might be a redneck..." routine on the spot. His restraint is admirable. Well, at least up until he starts making misogynistic jokes, instead, anyway.
Timestamp: 12/12/2007 07:24:00 AM
Better than any Christmas party could possibly be is the annual Hanukkah shindig known as Bubbeh's Latkefest. Our very good friend and former neighbor Julie (aka Bubbeh) and some other Jewish friends put together a whole mess of latkes and a big pot of chicken soup, and engage in the grand Jewish ritual of saying, "Oy, it's another year that we didn't die! Let's eat!" Only a real shlemiel would miss it.
Now, Julie's mighty particular about her latkes and her soup, and doesn't like to let anyone else bring any food. Meshugeh, I know, such a martyr she is! Oy vey! Anyway, I offered to make and bring some challah...and she accepted! It was a mitzvah indeed to be the single, solitary guest at Bubbeh's Latkefest who was allowed to contribute to the meal.
Thus, I spent the afternoon on and off preparing a big mess of jewbread. Mind, I was listening to Handel's Messiah whilst I was doing it...but in my mind, I was singing "Havah nagila" in place of the "Hallelujah"s.
It is with the greatest of pleasure that I report that the two loaves I made were a tremendous hit, getting torn to shreds and ingested by 30 or so people over the course of the evening, along with Bubbeh's fabulous latkes and chicken soup. Oy, batampte, I tell you. Did you ever see such a spread? Moreover, did you ever see such a spread disappear so fast? A kishef macher in the kitchen that Julie is, as long as she can keep the kibbitzers out of the way...
A good time was had by all, though some of us got a little farshnoshket and are paying the price today.
Timestamp: 12/08/2007 05:26:00 PM
Listen, y'all, I know times are tough and many of you could use a good laugh.
That's why I'm offering you a link to writer John Scalzi's Flickr set on his trip to the Creation Museum. Take a look - it's funny and frightening and sad all at once. Two of my loyal readers may be more frightened and saddened than others, as this incredible Monument to Pseudoscientific Horseshit is in the same state as they are, less than a two-hour drive from Louisville, in Petersburg, Kentucky.
Anyway, take a look, have a larf.
Timestamp: 12/05/2007 09:28:00 PM
The world is slightly less awesome today with the passing of Evel Knievel.
Not that I was ever a huge fan, or even an afficionado, or a casual follower. It's just that there's one less dude in the world who made a living out of jumping over shit on his motorcycle, a profession somewhere between pro wrestler and trapeze artist on the internationally-recognized Scale of Awesomity.
Timestamp: 11/30/2007 05:32:00 PM
Once again swiping something I discovered via Christopher Bird over at mightygodking.com, but this is something that most certainly deserves to be seen by my legions of loyal and adoring readers:
One Week's Worth of Food
These are great photos all by themselves. Taken together, they form a fascinating photo essay that touches on some of the ideas I discussed in my Thanksgiving post last week.
Also, it's worth noting that I'm beyond astounded that an American family of four with two teenage boys (the Revis family) didn't have the highest total on the list. Cost of living in Western Europe, I suppose.
Timestamp: 11/27/2007 12:08:00 PM
Erin, world's most dangerous poet, teacher who assigns too much reading and not enough Jimi, bourbon connoisseur, Impressive Clergyman and all-around swell dame, has tagged me, y'all. The mission, should I choose to accept it (and I do): to write about certain topics in blocks of 8. Here's the results:
8 passions in my life:
Comics - even the long underwear stuff that intellectual nerds like me aren't supposed to like
Great breakfasts on Saturday mornings (and Sundays, too)
Creating the perfect pot of chili
The oddball roadside attractions and greasy-spoon diners of America
Art - makin' it, lookin' at it, talkin' about it, thinkin' about it...
Reading the first page/paragraph/sentence of a book that makes you realize right off the bat that it's going to be great
Looking up at the sky and every time coming to the strangely-always-new realization that the universe is far more vast than my mind can possibly comprehend, and I am correspondingly far more tiny than my egotistical human brain can possibly comprehend (all of which happens pretty much every time I do this). Astronomy, in other words
Going along with that last one, sitting around a campfire and drinking ("which really hasn't been topped in several millennia of development of leisure activities." - my brudder).
8 things to do before I die:
Publish my comics (in book form, preferably not at a vanity publisher)
Climb Mt. Fuji
Qualify for and run the Boston Marathon
Win a chili cookoff
Own a show-worthy '67 VW Beetle
Appear on "Jeopardy!"
Own a big hunk of ground someplace in Wyoming or Montana
8 things I often say:
"Oh, for fuck's sake..."
"The waiting game sucks. Let's play Hungry Hungry Hippos!"
"What do you want for dinner?"
"You're a kitty!" [or any other of an ever-increasing number of inane things we say to our cats on a regular basis]
"I like pie."
8 books I read recently:
"The Android's Dream" by John Scalzi
"Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters" by Courtney E. Martin
"Book One: Work, 1986-2006" by Chip Kidd
"Empire of Ivory" by Naomi Novik
"The Lies of Locke Lamora" by Scott Lynch
"The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl" by Barry Lyga
"A Feast for Crows" by George R.R. Martin
"The Hobbit" by JRR Tolkien (for the millionth time)
8 songs that mean something to me:
"If I Had $1,000,000" by Barenaked Ladies
"Particle Man" by They Might Be Giants
"What Would You Say" by the Dave Matthews Band
"In the Garage" by Weezer
"Watchin' the Wheels" by John Lennon
"Yeah" by Usher
"Uncle John's Band" by the Grateful Dead
"Take it Easy" by the Eagles
8 qualities I look for in a friend:
Sense of humor
Has at least one good drink he or she makes very well or knows a lot about
Likes playing games of some sort - not necessarily D&D or nerdy boardgames with hundreds of parts and thousands of rules, tho those are nice; the ability to play and enjoy poker or gin or cribbage will do just fine
Shares willingly and happily
But on the other hand, doesn't drink all my booze
Is awesome in some way shape or form
Knows the proper response to "I'll be careful..."*
8 people who I’m passing this on to:
* That would be, "You'll be dead!" in case you didn't know
Timestamp: 11/26/2007 07:12:00 AM
It is easy to forget about the Pilgrims. They have become just another bit of cultural/historical ephemera, just another bit of standard Americana with no more real meaning than Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or Ronald McDonald, dour black-and-white clothing and funny buckled shoes serving the same purpose a "Ho ho ho" and a bag of toys or a red afro wig and a set of Golden Arches. The Pilgrims are today as much a gaggle of third-graders in construction paper hats sharing watery fruit punch, carrot sticks and cookies with a matching gaggle of third-graders in construction paper feathered headdresses as a real part of our shared history.
Thanksgiving is about gluttony and football in the year 2007. We'll maybe go once around the table before passing the dark meat and the gravy in order to pay lip-service to the nominal reason for the feast and each say one thing for which we are thankful. But will we really stop and think about it? Or will we just say, "Uh, yeah, friends and family for me, too, pass the stuffing, would you?" and turn back to the TV with the dim hope that the Jets are somehow beating the Cowboys?
We forget that the Pilgrims were not gathering to give thanks for "friends and family," or for Brett Favre's sudden rejuvenation. The Pilgrims were giving thanks for a year in which they didn't die. They were giving thanks to God for their very survival. And not just survival - they were celebrating their good fortune in having more than they needed.
If you know me, you know that this isn't meant as some sort of rose-tinted nostalgia for the Good Old Days When Thanksgiving Meant Something, or a "Why does nobody give thanks to God on Thanksgiving?" polemic, because honestly, I'm as prepared to believe in Santa Claus as I am a God who gives a flying fuck whether human beings are giving thanks to him or not. This is certainly not an anti-football thing, because I'll be watching it, too. This is merely an exhortation for each of us to consider what we really have to be thankful for.
Give thanks for plentiful food, for living in a country where a feast such as the standard Thanksgiving dinner is possible. While you're at it, give thanks for clean, safe drinking water, gallons and gallons of which are to be had just by turning a knob in your kitchen without ever leaving your house.
Give thanks for good health. There is no doubt that the health care system in the United States is a mess and desperately in need of overhaul. On the other hand, we are not dying of typhoid, of cholera, of measles. We live in a world where smallpox, a scourge of mankind throughout history, has been essentially eradicated.
Give thanks for easy and safe travel and communication. You can fly or drive or take the train to see your friends and family on Thanksgiving, or, failing that, you can call them or text them on a phone you carry around in your pocket or email them with a computer you can carry around in a briefcase. With Skype and a $30 camera, you can talk to them for free on what amounts to a "Jetsons"-style video phone.
Give thanks for Black Friday. No, you don't have to like consumerism, you don't have to like the appalling excess, you don't have to like parents having screaming, clawing battles to the death over Cabbage Patch Kids or Power Rangers or Bad Touch Elmo or whatever is the season's "must-have" Christmas toy. But it is worth pausing to remember amongst all the outrageous consumer insanity that will have officially kicked off less than 48 hours from now that we live in a nation where basically anything we need or want is available with a trip to the Jimget or a few clicks on Amazon 24/7.
Millions upon millions around the world don't have these things. They don't know where their next meal is coming from, they have to trek miles from their homes to find drinking water that is reasonably close to safe, they do die of diseases we can't imagine having at all, they are cut off from anyone more than a few miles away, they have almost no material possessions to speak of and no way of acquiring simple things like new clothing or basic medicines and toiletries, much less books and DVDs and iPods and fancy kitchen gadgets.
This isn't meant to be a guilt trip. Nor is it meant to be a blinkered view of the United States of America, in which there is undoubtedly still poverty, hunger, disease, loneliness and isolation and all the rest. This an age in which the gulf between the "Haves" and the "Have-nots" is vast orders of magnitude wider than at any previous point in human history. And despite what we may think when we play keep-up-with-the-Joneses, most of us here in America fall quite squarely on the "Have" side of that gulf, all things considered.
And that is something for which to be truly thankful. We must feel gratitude for our luck to have been born on this side of the gulf and to have all of these things. We must not take them for granted. We feast not just out of gluttony. We feast because we lucky enough to be able to feast. Like the Pilgrims, we feast to celebrate our good fortune.
Now, let's eat.
Timestamp: 11/21/2007 09:01:00 AM
The Onion A.V. Club offers 21 good books that need to be great films...like, now (and while you're there, check out 20 Good Books Made Into Not-so-Good Movies), some of which I nodded in agreement with (e.g. The Time Traveler's Wife, which is kind of cheating because it's already in production with Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams in the leads, and Don Rosa's The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck), some of which I wondered how they think anyone could possibly make a good movie from (e.g. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, a great, brilliant, wonderful book which is also the textbook definition of "unfilmable" if anything is, and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, another great book that is great largely because of the unique voice of Dave Eggers, which again doesn't really seem to translate to film).
Anyway...here's a few additions to that list of my own:
1. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: Terry Gilliam has been trying to get an adaptation of this off the ground for years. I don't suppose it's really all that surprising that a movie that would draw the predictable outcry from the usual suspects about boycotts and how Hollywood has no respect for Christians and how it's a sign that Christians are a persecuted minority in this country can't get funding. Still, the potential exists here for something that's smart, exciting and funny all at once. I've long imagined John Cleese as Aziraphale and Robert Carlyle as Crowley, though lately it's occurred to me that it seems like a perfect opportunity to re-team Stephen Fry (Aziraphale) and Hugh Laurie (Crowley).
2. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon: This is supposedly in the works as well, helmed by Stephen Daldry, director of Billy Elliot and The Hours. I'll admit this one is a tough nut to crack, in cinematic terms. There's not all that much of a plot, but it's dense and complex in terms of characterization. The easy way out is "Poor kids make good with comic books," but there's so much more going on here. Casting will be a bear as well - to do it right, you've got to get a couple of kids around 18-20 years old for the leads. And not The CW/"Gossip Girl"-types, either. David Krumholz would have been perfect as Sammy a few years back, but he's far too old now. A header on an IMDB message board posting offers this nugget of joy: "How about Zach Braff as Joe Kavalier?", which made me throw up in my mouth a little.
3. His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik: Peter Jackson's company has optioned this series, which seems like a good fit. I hope it actually gets made. The story is thoroughly cinematic, and it would be a great opportunity for the Weta Digital artists to go nuts, creating dragons of all sizes and descriptions. It could be like Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, only with a much better title (and seriously, that's a great title, y'all). Sequels are built-in, as there's already three more books in the series with at least one more on the way - and they only get deeper, better and more exciting as the books go on. It's a shame that Ioan Gruffudd has already played Horatio Hornblower, because he'd be about dead perfect as Capt. Will Laurence.
4. The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller: Some of the things I've heard about The Dark Knight, next summer's Batman Begins sequel, lead me to believe that this is the ultimate goal that Christopher Nolan and David Goyer have in mind, not least of which is the title. If so...how frickin' awesome would that be? It's got its problems, no doubt. The studio might balk at the R-rating some of the more explicit violence would assuredly draw...but that could be toned down to a nice PG-13 level. And they might not be thrilled with the way Superman, one of their other franchise heroes, kinda-sorta plays the part of a villain in this story. Still...a nerd can dream, right? I think Kurt Russell in a sort of Snake Plisskin-ish mode could probably do justice to cranky old Batman. Throw in a cameo appearance from David Letterman, and you've got it made.
5. Conan by Robert E. Howard: I believe that the Governor of California's original turn as Conan is generally a bit underrated. That said, you can't tell me it's not high time for a new, truly great Conan movie. A movie that gives us a Conan who is cunning, as shrewd and quick-witted as he is strong and handy with a blade, rather than the monosyllabic goon in previous adaptations. Howard's Conan is superstitious and mistrustful of cities and "civilized" life...but he's not stupid. "The Tower of the Elephant" might be a little too far on the weird side for a mass audience to accept - but why not borrow the good bits from "The God in the Bowl," "Rogues in the House" and "Red Nails"? Instead of some generic warrior woman or helpless princess, why not give us Belit, Queen of the Black Coast as Conan's love interest? Why not give us that long-promised "other story" about how Conan came to be King of Aquilonia by his own hand? Why not give us a Conan movie with a hero who can actually deliver dialogue instead of grunting in a heavy German accent? Find an actor who is strong and athletic, but not just another body builder. Finally pit him against Thoth-Amon, who fans of the stories and the comics have been dying to see on-screen for ages and ages, perhaps. Whaddaya say, Hollywood?
The Hollywood writers have been on strike for nearly a week now. It has been a subject of much discussion on this here internet, unsurprisingly. There have been many displays of support, an awful lot of questions, and no shortage of pure stupidity.
This stupidity has run the gamut, from what you normally see during just about any kind of strike (i.e., pure, unadulterated anti-union stupidity (because, you see, unions are useless in this day and age, not to mention being for-all-intents-and-purposes Communism, and apparently the Powers that Be are pretty likely to give their employees a fair shake out of the goodness of their shriveled, blackened hearts, and, "Why, I work in [x modern white-collar industry] and we don't have a union and we don't need one, so obviously no one needs a union!")) to the kind of stupidity that's really more ignorance of the real issues involved in this particular strike than stupidity per se (i.e., "Does a [insert completely unrelated and dissimilar job or profession] get paid extra every time someone buys [product or service produced by completely unrelated and dissimilar industry]?").
The kind of stupidity that really blows my mind, though, is the kind where someone makes jokes like "Hollywood writers are on strike...how can anyone tell?" or just purely idiotic comments like, "How can they claim they deserve more money when they produce dreck like [insert name of phenomenally uncreative movie or television show]?"
Here's why that argument bugs me so much: Yeah, there's a lot of crap coming out of Hollywood right now, from terrible TV shows like "Two and a Half Men" and all forty of CBS's iterations of "Science Cops" to wretched movies like Shrek 3 and Transformers. The thing about that, though, is that there has always been a lot of crap coming out of Hollywood, and there always will be a lot of crap coming out of Hollywood. Movies have been shining gems surrounded by manure for as long as there have been movies. Television has been a few bright oases in the midst of Newton Minnow's "vast wasteland" for as long as there has been television. That's just the way it works.
We think of the 1930s and '40s as the Golden Age for American Cinema, and I'm not going to say it wasn't. But when we think of movies from that era, we think of The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Citizen Kane, you know...the stuff that has (so far) stood the test of time, the stuff that people still watch sixty or seventy years later. It's not that Hollywood wasn't producing crap at the time - it's that nobody remembers the crap because nobody's watching it anymore.
There's a similar perception about television. People still fondly remember and still watch "M*A*S*H" all the time. As long as there's television, you'll probably be able to find an episode of "M*A*S*H" airing on some channel somewhere 24/7. Same with "Cheers." But "M*A*S*H" and "Cheers" were surrounded by truly horrendous shows that are remembered now only as, "Wow, that show sucked," and in another twenty years won't be remembered at all. Case in point - as Boomer/Gen-X nostalgia fades over the years, do you really think anyone is going to remember "The Brady Bunch"?
It's called Sturgeon's Law, coined by science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon. He was defending his genre from its reputation as "that 'Buck Rogers' stuff." His defense? "It's true that 90% of science fiction is crap. But then, 90% of everything is crap." To make an analogy, for every one Mozart composing beautiful and timeless music at any given time, there's at least nine Salieris out there composing utter crap.*
90% of everything is crap. Words to live by. Television and movies weren't better in eras gone by. You've got the same 9:1 ratio of crap to non-crap today as you had in the Good Old Days. Always has been, always will be. And it's certainly no reason to deny the people who work hard on churning it out a fair share of the profits that crap earns.
*It is my understanding that, in using Antonio Salieri as his figure of envy and inadequacy in Amadeus, Peter Schaffer created an unfair impression of Salieri and his work for modern audiences. Be that as it may, I think you get my point.
Timestamp: 11/09/2007 05:27:00 PM
Okay, so this was featured on the Yahoo front page the other day, so you may have seen it. But if you haven't, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. It's yet another piece of proof that, though Americans may have invented television, the Japanese perfected it.
Timestamp: 11/07/2007 08:38:00 PM
I don't go in for memes much, but I like writing things about movies, so I'm going to do so, and you're going to like it.
(From Sara via Mle, in case you didn't know)
Movies I've seen are bolded, movies I've seen more than once are *asterisked, movies I couldn't finish are
AFI Top 100 Films
1. Citizen Kane* (1941): I wouldn't say it was my favorite movie, but it's definitely Top Ten, and I honestly believe it soundly deserves its reputation as the Greatest Movie of All Time. Brilliant, innovative and every bit as good today as in '41.
2. The Godfather* (1972): I think my testicles would be revoked if I didn't love this movie.
3. Casablanca* (1942): The Hollywood studio system at its apex. Also, Ingrid Bergman? Appears in the dictionary beside the phrase, "Drop Dead Gorgeous."
4. Raging Bull(1980): I don't think this one is even Scorsese's best, but a great movie nevertheless.
5. Singin’ in the Rain (1952): Earns its title as the best Hollywood musical over its nearest competitor by a country mile.
6. Gone with the Wind* (1939): Seeing a beautifully restored print of this on the big screen for the 60th Anniversary re-release in '99 was absolutely awesome.
7. Lawrence of Arabia* (1962): I like this movie in any format, but ultimately this is one that really only works on a big screen.
8. Schindler’s List (1993): I'm with Mle on this one, though I did actually buy it on VHS back when I was working at Ballbuster Video, being a huge Spielberg fan. Never actually watched the tape, though.
9. Vertigo* (1958): One of the best directors ever in his prime.
10. The Wizard of Oz* (1939): One of a very small handful of movies that absolutely everybody has seen.
11. City Lights (1931): I know film buffs are supposed to love Chaplin, but I just can't get into him for some reason.
12. The Searchers* (1956): Unavoidable, as this was one that my Dad would watch basically anytime it appeared on AMC when I was a kid, which was usually two or three times a year. And well worth the watching, too.
13. Star Wars* (1977): Second on this list of the small handful of movies that absolutely everybody has seen.
14. Psycho (1960): I imagine what my opinion of this movie might have been had I seen this without knowing the Shower Scene was coming.
15. Sunset Blvd. (1950): Ah, Billy Wilder...maybe the best writer ever in Hollywood. "I'm still big! The pictures got small!" = a lifetime of delusion and psychosis summed up in seven words.
16. 2001: A Space Odyssey* (1968): Took me a few tries to get into it, but once I did, endlessly rewarding.
17. The Graduate (1967): Has not aged well.
18. The General (1927): I like Keaton better than Chaplin.
19. On the Waterfront (1954): To borrow a line, "I know."
20. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946): Third on the list from the Small Handful.
21. Chinatown (1974): People usually talk about the writing and the direction, but often ignore the fact that Jack Nicholson is just awesome here.
22. Some Like It Hot (1959): Billy Wilder again. That the same guy is behind this as Sunset Blvd. is pretty amazing.
23. The Grapes of Wrath (1940): Good, not great in my opinion. Not as good as the book, as they say.
24. E.T. The Extraterrestrial* (1982): Fifth on the list from the Small Handful
25. To Kill a Mockingbird* (1962): By contrast, every bit as good as the book, and maybe better.
26. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
27. High Noon (1952)
28. All About Eve (1950)
29. Double Indemnity (1944)
30. Apocalypse Now (1979): Maybe it's just me, but I find this one highly over-rated. And it collapses under its own weight (and Marlon Brando's) during the last act.
31. The Maltese Falcon (1941): Certainly my favorite hard-boiled detective movie.
32. The Godfather Part II* (1974): Unlike most, I wouldn't say it's as good or better than Part I. Still great, though.
33. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975): Overrated - but Nicholson is awesome.
34. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937): I know I've seen it all the way through, but my memories of it are vague.
35. Annie Hall (1977): Never been a Woody Allen fan.
36. The Bridge on the River Kwai* (1957): A revelation to me after a lifetime of seeing Alec Guinness only as Obi-Wan Kenobi.
37. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
38. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
39. Dr. Strangelove* (1964): Peter Sellers = Comedy God.
40. The Sound of Music* (1965): One of only a few movie adaptations I can think of that improves on the stage version.
41. King Kong* (1933): I loved Peter Jackson's remake, but this packs more into 90 minutes than Jackson did in 180.
42. Bonnie and Clyde (1967): Violence as poetry.
43. Midnight Cowboy (1969): I think the reason this movie left Mle feeling sad is because it's an incredibly depressing story. But that's just a guess.
44. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
45. Shane (1953): Iconic, and did as much by itself to mythologize the American West as the entire career of John Wayne.
46. It Happened One Night (1934)
47. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
48. Rear Window (1954)
49. Intolerance (1916): I suspect this is here as a placeholder for Griffith's Birth of a Nation, which voters were probably uncomfortable with.
50. Lord of the Rings : The Fellowship of the Ring* (2001): I seem to have a vague recollection of having seen this one a time or two.
51. West Side Story* (1961): Much like The Sound of Music, improves upon its source material.
52. Taxi Driver* (1976): And here's Scorsese's best, only 48 spots lower on the list than Raging Bull.
53. Deer Hunter, The (1978)
54. M*A*S*H (1970): Has not aged well.
55. North by Northwest* (1959): Without question the best of Hitchcock's "Wrong Man" movies, and by far my favorite of his entire filmography.
56. Jaws* (1975): "You're gonna need a bigger boat."
57. Rocky* (1976): Tends to be underrated because it produced so many awful sequels.
58. The Gold Rush (1925)
59. Nashville (1975): I've tried to like Robert Altman, but he just leaves me cold.
60. Duck Soup* (1933): The mirror scene is the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life.
61. Sullivan’s Travels (1941): Deserves praise if nothing else for giving us "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
62. American Graffiti* (1973): Like "Happy Days," only good.
63. Cabaret (1972): One of a very few films that I had never seen that Mle showed to me - role reversal.
64. Network (1976)
65. The African Queen* (1951): See comments on The Searchers above.
66. Raiders of the Lost Ark* (1981): I was Indiana Jones for Halloween this year.
67. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
68. Unforgiven (1992): Hard to believe, but this isn't even Clint Eastwood's best.
69. Tootsie (1982)
70. A Clockwork Orange (1971): Great movie, but the Alex/Droog Halloween costume is way past played out. It must stop.
71. Saving Private Ryan* (1998): Take away the stupid framing sequence, and you've got something truly incredible.
72. The Shawshank Redemption* (1994): Sixth on the list of the Small Handful.
73. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid* (1969): The movie is still great...but Robert Redford has not aged well.
74. The Silence of the Lambs* (1991): Much like Rocky, it's becoming hard to remember how great this movie is as Hannibal Lecter has over the years become more and more of a cartoonish slasher, indistinguishable from Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees.
75. In the Heat of the Night* (1967): Everyone talks about Sidney Poitier, but Rod Steiger holds his own opposite him, which is no mean feat.
76. Forrest Gump* (1994): Say what you will, but Tom Hanks inhabits this character.
77. All the President’s Men (1976)
Modern Times (1936)
79. The Wild Bunch (1969): That it's ranked lower on this list than Unforgiven - which owes this movie a pretty big debt - seems kind of odd to me.
80. The Apartment (1960)
81. Spartacus* (1960): Worth the price of admission just to hear Tony Curtis describing himself as "a tellah of tales from laaaawn gago."
82. Sunrise (1927)
83. Titanic* (1997): Final movie on the list from the small handful; not as great as the hype but also not as bad as the backlash. And Kate Winslet? Appears in the dictionary alongside Ingrid Bergman under, "Drop Dead Gorgeous."
84. Easy Rider (1969): Has not aged well.
85. A Night at the Opera (1935): I would never willingly subject myself to the Three Stooges...but I'll watch the Marx Brothers all day long.
86. Platoon (1986): The only Vietnam movie worth a damn, if you ask me.
87. 12 Angry Men (1957)
88. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
89. The Sixth Sense (1999): I figured out The Secret about halfway through. Still liked it.
90. Swing Time (1936)
91. Sophie’s Choice (1982)
92. Goodfellas* (1990): Inspired one of the less good bits of "Animaniacs."
93. The French Connection (1971): Has not aged well.
94. Pulp Fiction* (1994): A couple of sentences cannot adequately sum up my relationship (yes, relationship) with this movie. Remind me to tell you about it sometime.
95. The Last Picture Show (1971)
96. Do the Right Thing* (1989): Criminally underrated by being this low on the list. Should be Top Ten for sure. One of the best movies ever.
97. Blade Runner (1982): "He say you Brade Runner!"
98. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
99. Toy Story* (1995): Very good, but doesn't really stand up to Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Ratatouille.
100. Ben-Hur* (1959): The opposite of the Little Old Lady from Pasadena - it makes a Roman chariot race look like the Indy 500.
Timestamp: 11/06/2007 09:28:00 PM
Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot ;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'Twas his intent.
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below.
Poor old England to overthrow.
By God's providence he was catch'd,
With a dark lantern and burning match
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, let the bells ring
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, God save the King!
Hip hip Hoorah !
Hip hip Hoorah !
A penny loaf to feed ol'Pope,
A farthing cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down,
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar,'
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head,
Then we'll say: ol'Pope is dead.
I know it's a British thing, but, hey...happy Guy Fawkes Day, everybody.
And remember, V for Vendetta is about a million times better as a comic than a movie.
Timestamp: 11/05/2007 07:13:00 PM
It's a tough year to be a sports fan in Colorado. The Rockies got crushed in humiliating fashion in the World Series. The Nuggets have a shot, but look as iffy as ever. The only thing worse in the state's collegiate athletics scene than the Colorado Buffaloes' thoroughly mediocre football is the Colorado State Rams' thoroughly awful football. Okay, the Avalanche have started strong, but three quarters of the country doesn't notice or care what's going on in the world of professional ice hockey anyway. Besides, they look like a potential playoff team, but not like a potential Stanley Cup team.
And then there's the Broncos. The much-beloved Broncos, always #1 in the hearts of every Colorado sports fan, the source of the Orange-and-Blue blood of diehards up and down the Front Range, all across the Centennial State and throughout the Rocky Mountain region.
And they just flat-out suck.
They got walloped today, scoring only one garbage-time TD as the 4th quarter expired. They got beat down by the Detroit Lions, of all teams, an ass-kicking that you just can't sugar-coat.
And this is the second time this season it's happened, after a losing in similarly ludicrous fashion, 41-3, to the San Diego Chargers in week 5.
To be fair, Broncos' starting QB Jay Cutler left the game with an injury early in the 2nd quarter, which is bound to hamper the offensive scheme and execution of any football team.
To be honest as well as fair, though, there has been no evidence to date that Jay Cutler is anything more than a moderately skilled journeyman QB.
Not that you'll convince anyone in the Denver media of that. Broncos radio play-by-play man Dave Logan said as Culter was headed to the locker room after the injury, "This could be an absolute disaster for the Broncos." Hearing this, I'm thinking, "How's that, exactly?" How is there any discernable difference between Cutler and backup QB Patrick Ramsey? What does Cutler contribute that Ramsey can't? A disaster is, "Peyton Manning is injured early in the 2nd quarter and Jim Sorgi has to take over." A disaster is not, "The fair-to-middling starter is injured and the probably-middling-at-best backup QB has to take over."
The true disaster is this Broncos season. I've watched a lot of different Broncos teams over the years. They've ranged from perhaps-among-the-best-teams-ever (The 14-2 1998 repeat Super Bowl winner) to not good (the 6-10 1999 post-Elway-retirement, Terrell Davis' career-ending-injury fiasco season). I've never seen a Broncos team this bad, one to be ranked among the worst in the NFL.
They've won three games this season, squeaking each one out on last-second field goals. They still have to play in Kansas City, in Oakland and in San Diego, none of which they're likely to win. They're going to lose to Tennessee at home, could easily lose to Kansas City at home, and are pretty likely to lose on the road to Chicago and Houston. They might have a decent shot at beating Minnesota at home to close out the season. They could easily finish 4-12, which would be only their 7th losing season since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970. Of course, they could also easily finish 3-13, which would be their lowest win total since 1967. The point is, this is a historically bad Broncos team.
All I've got to keep me interested in football this season is the vague hope that someone will stop the New England Fucking Patriots (that team's new official name) from winning the Super Bowl, so as to bring a couple of months of blissful silence from the smug, self-satisfied asshole Boston sports fans of the world. On the other hand, it would be nice in its way to see the Patriots go undefeated all the way through, so that we never, ever again have to endure footage on "SportsCenter" of the 1972 Miami Fucking Dolphins (long since that team's official name) having another goddamn champagne toast.
Grr...I'm grasping at straws here. As far as I'm concerned, this season is pretty much over.
Timestamp: 11/04/2007 03:56:00 PM
I have done something highly illogical.
I signed up for National Novel Writing Month.
What are the odds that I'll actually manage to write 1,600 words a day for the next thirty days in between all the other things placing demands on my time?
Probably pretty much nil.
But I figured, "What the heck?" Maybe getting emails from the NaNoWriMo people will motivate me to do it. Maybe I'll actually write a novel this month.
Maybe. I'll keep you posted.
Timestamp: 10/31/2007 10:18:00 PM
As I expected, a Boston fan - the estimable Yank in Texas - has accused me of being a sore loser after my previous post.
I resent that. Really. In any contest, whether as a participant or an interested spectator, I pride myself on being a good sport. I feel I went out of my way not to be a sore loser, to simply and honestly express the way I was feeling after what were up until now my two favorite teams played one another in the World Series. Back in 2004, I was rooting for the Red Sox to win when I went to see them at Coors Field, because in deciding between two teams I loved, I chose the one that was in the midst of a Wild Card chase and had a shot at the division title, the playoffs and the World Series over the one that was wallowing in craptacularity and headed for its third straight 4th-place finish in the NL West.
In the days leading up to the Series, I really expected that if the Red Sox won, I would come away from it thinking, "Well, the Rockies may have lost, but at least the Sox won." Over the course of five days and four games, I really surprised myself by coming to despise Boston (the team, not the town, which remains awesome) and, to borrow a line from an e-mail from my brother, "wishing them ill."
To be a sore loser is to say, "We deserved to win" and make excuses for why we didn't. To say that the grapes were probably sour anyway, as it were. Eric Byrnes was being a sore loser during the NLCS when he griped about how the D'Backs were outplaying the Rockies but still losing.
The Rockies were outclassed and outplayed by a vastly superior baseball team, and I'll make no bones about it. Yankees North were the better team by far and deserved the win.
But they're a long way from the feel-good story of 2004. There's nothing to feel good about here, no breakthrough for the long-suffering underdog, no triumph for a team that did anything more noteworthy than pay more than anybody else. For fuck's sake, they paid $3 Million less than the Rockies' entire payroll for the season just for the right to talk to Dice-K, and that number doesn't even figure into their actual payroll total.
There's an immense dishonesty in the way Boston continues to sell itself - and, more to the point, the way their fans continue to see the team - as the Anti-Yankees, when nothing could be further from the truth. The ghosts of the past have all been exorcised, whether you were a believer in the Curse of the Bambino or just one who marveled at how one team could find a way to bungle every World Series appearance for 86 years. Boston fans will no doubt continue to see their team as a scrappy underdog always struggling to beat the Evil Empire from the Bronx, but it just ain't so. In their desperation to beat the Yankees, the Red Sox have become the Yankees. Nietzsche said, "Whoever would fight with monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster." Boston failed that test; they're the Evil Empire, too, now, just as much as Steinbrenner's pinstripes.
I congratulate them for winning the Series, fair and square. But I can't be a fan anymore. That's all. No sour grapes, no protests that they didn't deserve to win, no accusations of cheating. Just a sad realization that a team I loved doesn't exist anymore.
Timestamp: 10/29/2007 11:08:00 AM
Dear Colorado Rockies,
Let me start by saying that you broke my heart. I am, however, prepared to forgive you. That's kind of something you had to learn growing up in Colorado in the late '80s and early '90s. Watching John Elway, who you love like he's a member of your own family, getting his butt kicked in three Super Bowls in four years, you learn to deal with heartbreak and you learn to forgive. Here's the thing, though: I'm only currently going so far as to be prepared to forgive you. You guys have to meet me halfway.
Look, it was a great season by any measure, far greater than anyone could possibly have expected or predicted back in April. Very few people in Colorado thought you'd even be a serious player in the Wild Card chase, let alone win the damn thing. If anyone says they thought you'd even win a round in the playoffs back in April, much less win the NL pennant, they're lying like a no-legged dog. But you proved everyone wrong and made it all the way to the World Series. Sure, you played like the goddamn Bad News Bears once you got there, but getting there was a worthy achievement all by itself.
After all, it's not like you're the New York Mets or the Los Angeles Dodgers, much less the New York Yankees or the Boston...well, we'll get to Boston (see below). You had the 5th-lowest total payroll in Major League Baseball this year. You made the series with a roster full of former Asheville Tourists, Modesto Nuts and Tulsa Drillers. That's awesome. In the era where the Hired Gun is king in baseball and we're all essentially rooting for laundry, a roster full of homegrown talent like Helton, Holliday, Tulo and Francis is the cat's pajamas, man.
I probably don't really have any right to be unhappy with your performance in the World Series. You got some bad breaks and you're at an inherent disadvantage because you're representing a league that still plays real baseball instead of 10-man pussyball. But I'm unhappy nonetheless, because I really believed you could do it, and not only did you not do it, you failed to do it in truly spectacular fashion, making all the asshole Sox fans who laughed about you being a bunch of no-names who got where you were based on nothing more than dumb luck appear to be right.
But, like I said, I can forgive this heartbreak. Here's how: If you, as an organization from the top down, don't for a nanosecond think that you've now got some laurels you can rest on. If you go out there next season and play like the team that scrapped and fought to get into the playoffs, like the team that won 21 of 22 and swept through the National League playoffs. If you don't think, "Well, we won one pennant, which is more than anyone ever expected of us, that's enough to coast on for a few more years." If the owners and the GM do what it takes to keep that awesome homegrown talent around.
That's the key - pony up the dough, Monforts. Make those guys happy, O'Dowd. I don't think I can hang in there if, in a few years, I have to watch the Rockies returning to perennial Cellar Dweller status and see Holliday playing for Boston, Francis on the mound at Shea Stadium and Tulo in Yankee pinstripes. Do what it takes to keep these guys, do what it takes to stay in contention for the playoffs every season, play like you want to win for yourselves and for all those fans whose loyalties you've reawakened this fall. Don't return to being a team that's content to sell 25,000 tickets to each game and just enough merchandise to keep your Dugout Stores afloat.
Do that, and I'm yours forever. Well, I'm always going to be a fan. But doing that will go a long ways towards putting this World Series debacle out of my mind.
Dear Team Formerly Known as the Boston Red Sox,
I've been a fan of yours for quite a few years now. It is with some small measure of regret, therefore, that I must inform you that we're through. I can no longer in good conscience support you.
Oh, I suppose I'll always have fond memories of the times we've had together...watching Pedro Martinez come in, injured, and pitch five perfect innings against the Cleveland Indians in the '99 Division Series. Pounding on the bar at Old Chicago in front of the idiot Yankee fan bartender during the '99 ALCS and chanting, "Where is Roger?" (thump, thump, thump-thump-thump) "In the shower!" after you ran Clemens out of Game 3. Watching your amazing comeback in the '04 ALCS against the Yankees. Good times, good times.
But it's gotta end. Why? Well, because you've become everything you once stood against. You've gone from that loveable, charming underdog, the American League's perennial hard-luck losers, to just another Big Moneyball team, winning because you can afford to pay more than anyone else. You're not the Red Sox anymore, Boston team. Who are you? You're just Yankees North.
Congratulations, Yankees North. You had the best team money could buy this year. I hope you're proud of yourselves. Over the next few years, you'll no doubt buy yourself a few more championships, and the people in New England will love you as the rest of the country continues to despise you more and more. You'll attract ever greater numbers of bandwagon fans and celebrity hangers-on. Hey, you've already got Dane Cook, and he's one of the most annoying human beings on the planet...so that's pretty good, right?
People from all over the country will continue picking Yankees North as their favorite team, not because of any genuine love but because everyone loves a winner, and you'll sell Yankees North hats and t-shirts by the metric asston. But me? I'm done with you.
It's not just you and your new status as Yankees North. Mostly, but not entirely. I've come to realize that I generally dislike American League baseball overall, with its sissy 10-man rule and the over-emphasis on caveman-like bashing of the ball, where essentially useless "players" like Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz can be superstars even though they can barely play in the field, just because they can hit a ton. I'll probably throw some half-hearted support at the Oakland A's...though it's going to be tough in a couple of years to even care all that much about the Fremont A's or the San Jose A's or whatever the hell they're going to become.
Anyway, this isn't really about the DH or the A's and whatever south-easterly Bay Area community will eventually become their home. This is about how you've lost yourself more than one fan for good, Yankees North. I know it won't really matter to you, but that's what I'm feeling, and I had to get it off my chest.
Timestamp: 10/27/2007 08:50:00 PM
Here's another review of the new Schulz biography, this time from the New York Times' Randy Kennedy. This one takes as its focus the strange Euro/American preoccupation with the concept of the Tortured Artist. Once again, plenty of food for thought.
Kennedy quotes University of Minnesota professor Patricia Hampl, who offers a nugget of what I believe to be truth and wisdom:
“People don’t want to believe that someone like them could just sit down at a typewriter or a desk and create something great or timeless,” she said. “It’s got to be the product of a lot of misery and angst.” She compared the impulse to that of conspiracy theorists and their reluctance to believe in the banality of evil: “It’s hard to accept that a guy could just go up into a building and shoot the president.”
Very true, I think. this is related to a concept about which I've ranted before, the idea of Art as a Standard, which leads to the boneheaded idea that, "Well, I could do that!" is a valid criticism of a piece of artwork.
Kennedy also quotes City University of New York professor Morris Dickstein, whose comment is every bit as idiotic as Hampl's is insightful:
“People who have always had a happy life and lived on an even keel and haven’t had a lot of misfortune really don’t tend to be creative people.”
That's just pure horseshit, and if Dickstein doesn't know he's spouting pure horseshit, he doesn't really have any business teaching at CUNY. It's this myth and people like Dickstein who spout it from the bully pulpit of academia that leads plenty of young and talented musicians, artists and writers to any number of addictions and self-made miseries, simply because it's viewed as some sort of requirement for greatness.
Miles Davis shot heroin and Johnny Cash popped pills, Hemingway and Fitzgerald were self-destructive alcoholics, van Gogh was bat-shit insane and Picasso was a self-loathing womanizing asshole. Doesn't mean it's a requirement for creativity. It certainly doesn't mean that English professors ought to go off half-cocked, claiming that creativity = misery, and that people who aren't miserable can't be creative.
Timestamp: 10/14/2007 02:31:00 PM
If you have any interest in comic strips at all, do yourself a favor, take a few minutes and read Bill Watterson's review of the new Charles Schulz biography from the Wall Street Journal. First of all, it may pique your curiosity like it did mine and make you want to read the book.
More than that, it's interesting to me because of what it is. I am generally fascinated to hear or read artists discussing other artists. Publicity interviews with guys like Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese where they're just plugging their latest movie are usually dull, rote affairs. But in-depth discussions with them, the times the interviewer is able to get them waxing rhapsodic about Billy Wilder or John Ford, that's pure gold. Such a discussion allows you to see the films of both Spielberg and Ford in a new light.
And so it is here. Watterson is, of course, the creator of "Calvin and Hobbes," widely considered the best comic strip of its era. In the WSJ piece, Watterson makes it quite clear that he is one of the legion of cartoonists who learned any number of important lessons about the art simply by absorbing "Peanuts" as a kid. That "Peanuts" was influential goes without saying, but the direct influence of Schulz on Watterson becomes clear when Watterson explains it and gives you the opportunity to think about it. Look at that "Peanuts" strip above - could it not just as easily be Calvin (in a more sour mood, perhaps, than Charlie Brown) delivering the line in panel 2, and Hobbes, in some ways the comics page's philosophical heir to Linus van Pelt, delivering the line in panel 4?
The piece is also interesting for what it does not say. Obviously, this is a book review, so Watterson has to limit his editorializing. He is, however, able to slip in a few things between the lines. There is a certain wistful sadness lurking in there, but Watterson, who famously battled with his syndicate over licensing rights to "Calvin and Hobbes," is not able to say explicitly how he feels about the role of "Peanuts" as the progenitor of every "Dilbert" doll, every "Far Side" calendar and coffee mug and every single awful, soul-sucking "Garfield" poster with which awful middle school teachers wallpaper their classrooms.
Still, the admiration Watterson continues to feel for Schulz's work shines through. I'd love to read more from popular cartoonists of the present discussing, in greater depth, the work of popular cartoonists of the past.
Timestamp: 10/13/2007 06:03:00 PM
I was riding the shuttle back up the 16th Street Mall yesterday after a trip to LoDo get some footage for my video art class. Also aboard the shuttle bus were a gaggle of San Diegans in town for the travesty of a Broncos/Chargers game, heading back to their hotel after leaving the stadium.
Two in particular caught my attention, a fellow in a LaDainian Tomlinson jersey worn over a sweatshirt and a chick in a pink Chargers cap and fur-lined parka. Their conversation, held in loud, "Hey Everybody, Listen to Us" tones, was amusing.
He: I'm just not used to this cold weather!
She: I know! It is freeeeezing!
Yesterday's Denver weather: Overcast, occasional light rain showers, high temperature of ~55˚ F.
He: It's sunny and 75˚ in San Diego right now!
She: I don't know how these people stand it!
Yes, we get it, SoCal People. The weather where you're from is beautiful all the time, and us hicks are just too stupid to figure out how to make the weather here nicer, or to move someplace where it is.
Here's an idea - if San Diego is such an idyllic paradise, stay there. Don't come here and dress for the fucking Iditarod and complain about how cold it is on a mild Fall day and then go home and tell everyone about how you braved the arctic temperatures of a day with perfect football weather. Stay home and enjoy your perfect weather. You'll obviously be happier, and I guaran-goddamn-tee you that we here in Denver will be happier, too.
There does, of course, exist the tiny possibility that I'm just bitter about the embarrassing ass-kick the Bolts laid on the Broncos and disinclined to be charitable towards San Diegans and their weather woes.
Timestamp: 10/08/2007 03:33:00 PM
Today is the 2nd of October in Denver, Colorado. Two days ago, the Denver Broncos played what has over the last few seasons become their usual brand of mediocre-at-best football and were thoroughly trounced by the Indianapolis Colts. Denver is, without a doubt, a football town; people here live and die with the Broncos and the whole city is usually just a bit bummed out after such a humiliating loss. Amazingly, nobody cares right now about how the Broncos kind of suck, because the Colorado Rockies are going to the playoffs.
Today is the 2nd of October in Denver, Colorado, and the sports fans of this fair city and fine state are abuzz about baseball, which absolutely nobody expected back in April when the season began. Nobody is talking about how, in our desperation for the Second Coming of Elway, we perhaps ever-so-slightly over-estimated the abilities of our untried young QB, Jay Cutler. Nobody is talking about how, in all the talk during training camp about the Broncos' loaded secondary, we all merrily overlooked the fact that the D-line can't stop the run to save their lives. Nobody is talking about how the Broncos only just barely beat the Buffalo Bills and the Oakland Raiders, two simply awful teams.
Nope, everyone's talking about heroic triples and game-saving double plays and how Garrett Atkins was absolutely FUCKING ROBBED of a home run by inept umpires and therefore it doesnt, in a karmic sense, matter so much whether or not Matt Holliday actually touched the plate or not. They're not talking about Cutler and Champ and Travis Henry, they're talking about Holliday and Tulo and Todd Helton.
The "humor" columnist in the local free weekly rag wrote a week or so ago about how he would gladly trade a good Broncos season for a Rockies playoff run. Looks like he got his wish. And it looks like everyone in town agrees with him, too.
Including me. Go ROCKIES!
Timestamp: 10/02/2007 09:50:00 PM
Dear Hollywood Fucks,
Yesterday was, as you may be aware, the 28th of September. This means that summer has officially been over for less than a week. This means that people are thinking about baseball pennant races, football games, maybe hoping to get a few last tomatoes off the vine before the first frost, that sort of thing. Eager sorority girls are starting to think about whether they'll dress as a sexy nurse, a sexy schoolgirl, a sexy witch or a sexy cat for Halloween and whether they should serve cherry or strawberry Jello shooters at the Theta Beta Zeta Halloween party.
So explain to me, you Hollywood-types, why IN THE NAME OF JESUS FUCKING CHRIST IN A SMOKING BIRCHBARK CANOE I saw an ad on television last night for YET ANOTHER GODDAMNED PIECE OF SHIT CHRISTMAS MOVIE!
For fuck's sake, people. First of all, even if it were being released at a reasonable time, Thanksgiving weekend, maybe, this Fred Claus thing looks like about as much fun as cleaning up my cat's hairballs. We've got Vince Vaughn, who has officially reached the Ben Stiller "Oh God, Him Again?" Level. We've got a slumming Paul Giamatti, wearing the "You're Paying Me in Cash, Right?" look on his face. It's all cutesy and heartwarming and by the end, ol' V.V. is going to learn a special heartwarming lesson about the True Fucking Meaning of Christmas and Giamatti is going to learn a special heartwarming lesson about how There's Nothing in the Entire Universe as Important as Family or somesuch bullshit like that. Actually, I think the official Hollywood line on the matter is that the True Fucking Meaning of Christmas is that There's Nothing in the Entire Universe as Important as Family. Anyway, I'm sure it's all going to be very special and heartwarming.
Whether it's a good movie or not (though, as it's a Christmas movie, my money's on not), the important factor here is that it's the goddamned 29th of September and last night I saw an ad for a Christmas movie.
It's enough to make me want to go on a multi-state killing spree. Please stop, Hollywood Fucks. Please don't shove your inane Christmas bullshit down my throat earlier and earlier every year. Last year it was mid-October. Now it's late September. Next year it's going to be Labor Day, isn't it? By 2010, we'll be expected to start getting "into the holiday spirit" by the 4th of July, won't we?
Please make it stop. Please.
Not to proud to beg,
Timestamp: 9/29/2007 12:19:00 PM