Stay Chrome-free

I know there's a bit of irony in using my Blogger (by Google) blog to post this...

But here, from Charles Stross via Wil Wheaton is a good reason why you should stick with your Firefox and steer clear of the fancy new Google Chrome, direct from the Chrome EULA:

11. Content licence from you

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights that you already hold in Content that you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content, you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content that you submit, post or display on or through the Services. This licence is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

I'm not one to use emoticons, but sometimes, there's nothing you can do but :O

So basically, Google is saying, "Yeah, anything you do with Chrome, you retain copyright, but we get to do whatever we want with it, too." And apparently this is their EULA for GoogleDocs, too.

Yeah, I'll stick with my Firefox, thanks all the same.

In Which My Cat Presents Me With an Offering

Pictured at left is eight feet and one ton of Feline, who goes by the always-appropriate moniker "Loki." Here, he's curled up and looking as cute as can be. But within this unassuming exterior hides oh so much more.

For several weeks, the cats were fascinated by the oven. They sat and stared at the gap between oven and floor for long periods. We figured they could hear some little noise the oven was making, some noise we couldn't perceive. I'd pulled the oven out not long ago to clean out months' worth of accumulated muck, and found nothing amiss - just dust bunnies and dessicated potato cubes and onion bits.

So, last week, I arrived home from a day of listening to Democrats shout about how awesome Democrats are and how much McCain Sucks (which is, of course, true, but is also beside the point). Loki, mysteriously, was not at the back door to greet me as he usually is. It was hot and I was tired. I stripped down to my shorts and laid down on the bed to read for a few minutes and probably take a nap. After a minute or two, Loki comes in and hops up on the bed. He likes to be near us when we're home; in the kitchen with us, on the couch with us, in the bed with us. This is not unusual. I greet him without looking up from my book.

Suddenly, Loki deposits something on my bare belly. It is a small gray mouse, smaller than my thumb, and it is almost but not quite dead, and it is twitching away its last handful of breaths in this world. This was not an accident. This was Loki proudly presenting to me his contribution to the household.

Now, I'm a Manly Man. I like football, I can open pickle jars and reach high shelves, I mow the lawn and I know the names of lots of different kinds of tools. And, Manly Man that I am, I refrained from screaming like a little girl at this point. But only just.

I did, however, shout, "Oh, my God!" and roll over to let gravity take the mouse from my bare belly to the bed. Loki was perhaps a bit nonplussed at my reaction to his offering, but it didn't last. He was playing with it again in moments, tossing it and batting it and watching it continue to twitch.

I called Mle and said that I'd figured out what the cats had been staring at under the oven. By the time I was off the phone with her, the mouse had stopped twitching. Though I knew Loki would feel cheated, I didn't really want him to eat the thing, so I picked it up and tossed it out into the back yard. I rewarded him instead with effusive praise and a handful of salmon-flavored kitty treats.

Loki spent several minutes looking for the mouse even after that.

Notes from the Fringes of the Circus

Yes, the Circus came to town this week, and when I say "Circus," of course I mean "the Democratic National Convention," and when I compare the two, I do so as a proud registered Democrat and fervent supporter of the next President of the United States, Barack Obama. The oft-quoted words of Will Rogers ring as true today as ever: "I do not belong to any organized political party. I am a Democrat."

I was excited when Denver was named the host city for the 2008 DNC, thinking I might volunteer. Then I learned that the campus where I get edumacated was going to be closed down for the week of the convention. "Security reasons" are the stated cause of the closure, and it's no doubt true, as the campus is right next door to the Pepsi Center...but it also allowed the campus to make a few extra bucks by selling parking to conventioneers. Anyway, the convergence of the convention and a week free of other obligations meant that I could volunteer for sure.

For the past three days, I've been working as what they amusingly call a "Caucus Runner" at the Colorado Convention Center. It's amusing because a Caucus Runner does not run in the sense of administrating or organizing, nor in the sense of running to and fro or running errands. My job has basically been to stand there, be present in case something happens that swarms of police don't handle immediately, and to look handsome and dead sexy in my DNCC VOLUNTEER t-shirt. Standing quietly and looking good while doing it are things I've always been good at, so I suppose I'm rather well-suited to the job.

For those not in the know about just how a political convention works - which, I assume, is most of you - the big action happens, of course, at the primary site, the local sports arena (and in this year's case, for one night, the local football stadium). That's the Pepsi Center, affectionately referred to by sports columnists in the Post and the Rocky as "The Can," but mostly referred to by locals as the Pepsi Center. That's where the bigwigs make the speeches and the delegates wave signs and the TV talking heads muse about what it all means.

But during the day, leading up to all this, there's lots of smaller events going on. In the past, I'm told, this has always taken place at the area hotels, but due to the size of the event, this is happening at the Colorado Convention Center. The convention offices are all there, along with office space for interested parties like the AFL-CIO, the NAACP and all the other usual suspects. And there's the caucuses. This is basically where a bunch of people gather, make lots of speeches about how awesome the Democrats are, how awesome Barack is, and in some cases how awesome Hillary is. There's lots of applauding and back-patting and talk about how important it is to get out the vote and such.
So on Monday, I performed my important duties in the Black Caucus. Howard Dean, who is about as white as anyone can be, made some opening remarks. Wellington Webb, the former Mayor of Denver, who is definitely not white, made further opening remarks. Both were briefly interrupted by protesters, both of whom jumped up to scream about how Obama's pro-choice stance was, in fact, support of "black genocide." The police were on both of them like white on rice inside ten seconds. Webb quipped, "See, that just shows you how much things have changed. Now, when we get together for a meeting, the police are on our side." It was really moving to watch this group of people, to whom Obama's candidacy is probably most meaningful, gather and make a show of their support. Great stuff.

Monday Celebrity Sighting: Tom Brokaw, not covering the convention, just signing books, looking relaxed and as tan as George Hamilton.

Better still was my post on Tuesday, in the Women's Caucus. I'd guess it was about 1,500 people there, more than a few wearing Hillary buttons and t-shirts and such. Donna Brazile made a great speech, as did Cecile Richards, daughter of former Texas governor Ann Richards and current president of Planned Parenthood. She had my favorite line of the day: "Women voting for John McCain is like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders."

After that, I was assigned to watching a door, making sure that people went out the exit door instead of the entrance door. Not exciting, and kind of frustrating when people - usually the people with the most different kinds of credentials on their lanyards - completely ignored me and did whatever the hell they felt like, 'cuz they were important and busy or something, I guess.

Tuesday Celebrity Sighting: Rosario Dawson, who briefly addressed the Women's Caucus in support of her organization, Vota Latina, which works to register latina women to vote. Ten times hotter in real life. Also, Eva Longoria, who was there with Rosario, and Fran Drescher.

Today, I was assigned to the Asian American & Pacific Islander Caucus. Not as large or quite as interesting as the others, but still pretty cool. Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama's sister, spoke briefly about Obama's Hawai'ian background and sympathy with Asian/Pacific Islander causes and concerns. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke as well, and was pretty darn good.

Wednesday Celebrity Sighting: Kelly Hu - Lady Deathstrike from X2 - made a brief appearance at the caucus. Like Rosario Dawson, absolutely smokin' hot.

And of wouldn't be the Circus without the sideshow. Here's a bit of the scene outside the convention center:

Doesn't [Candidate] Care How He's Hurting Working Families?

In between the segments of the talking heads babbling about Michael Phelps and the lingering shots of Shawn Johnson grinning perkily and waving, you get the campaign commercials. And what is practically every campaign commercial about this year? Gas prices. Usually, it's the Republicans - smelling a wedge issue to get their base, Stupid People, into the voting booths with their usual aplomb - saying something along the lines of, "[Democratic Candidate] just doesn't care if gas prices go up to five or even six dollars a gallon - he even voted against new laws that would allow for [name of absurd and idiotic oil exploration plan that won't, in reality, lower gas prices a plugged nickel]. Doesn't [Democratic Candidate] even realize how much he's hurting working families?"

This has, somehow, unbelievably, become the number one issue in the 2008 campaign. Gas prices. American voters care more about paying less to fill their SUVs than they do about ending the war in Iraq, improving the health care system, creating real and reliable sources of renewable energy, improving public education, or anything else. The price of gasoline is more important than all of these.

This is mind-boggling, and simply proves to me that the American public is every bit as stupid as I've always suspected.

Look, y'all, John McCain can bleat "Drill here, drill now!" as much as he likes. The fact is the experts, people who actually understand the economic realities of the situation - and yes, Stupid People, like it or not, there is still such a thing as expert opinion in the world - say that drilling offshore or drilling in ANWR or drilling on top of Mount Goddamn Rushmore won't have any meaningful impact on the price at the pump. That's just the way it is.*

But let's imagine that John McCain bleats his way to the White House on the back of "Drill here, drill now!" and he gets his way and we drill here and drill now. And let's say that somehow, a miracle happens, and through some sort of magic, there's ten times as much oil as even the most optimistic predictions say. The oil flows, the price at the pump comes down, and we're all paying $1.50 a gallon again.

That's great, right?

Sure...for as long as the oil lasts.

The plain and simple fact of the matter is that there is a finite supply of petroleum in the world, and they're not making it anymore. Demand is increasing while supply dwindles. That is a fact, and it is indisputable.

So does it not make sense - given that it is inevitable that we will run out of petroleum (and therefore gasoline, Stupid People, which is made from petroleum) - that we should be thinking more about finding better ways of powering our modern industrial society, and thinking about ways we can use less gasoline than we do now, than to wring our hands and accuse the other candidate of not caring about how high gas prices are affecting working families?

Nope, nope, nope, of course not. Not when you've got a wedge issue and a huge bloc of Incredibly Stupid Voters who think that the gubmint is even capable of lowering the price of gasoline.

* - I should mention, in fairness, that certain Democrats' "plan" of releasing a portion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is equally boneheaded and pointless, as it will have roughly the same effect - i.e., nil - on gas prices.

Food Meme!

I like food, and I like easy blog posts, so here's a bit from the food blog Very Good Taste.

The rules are pretty standard:
A. List of 100 items
B. Bold items you've eaten
C. Cross out items you'd never consider eating

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros - I make a rather good version of huevos at home. Come visit, I'll cook them for you.
4. Steak tartare - I like rare beef, but raw is a bit much, thanks.
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding - I would try it, though I doubt I'd wolf it down.
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari - C'mon, who hasn't eaten calamari?
12. Pho - Denver has a pretty large Vietnamese immigrant population, and several very good pho places.
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans - Another favorite and a personal specialty, either New Orleans-style red beans or Caribbean-style black beans.
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper - I like spicy, but that's just crazy.
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava - One of Mle's very favorite desserts, and therefore one of mine.
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar - Well, I didn't eat the cigar, I used it in the recommended manner.
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O - I'm assuming this means that college-party staple, Jell-O shooters
39. Gumbo - Yet another personal specialty, as Leah and Simon may recall.
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects - Skewered and deep fried at a night market in Beijing. Beetles are sour, Grasshoppers taste a little like chicken.
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin - I don't think I've ever had sea urchin, but I've had sea urchin roe. Does this count?
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips - I've had them, and learned that there's just no reason to eat fake chocolate.
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe - Um, I've had absinthe. Is that the same thing?
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie - Me and every Marvel and DC superhero in the 1970s.
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse - Not unless I were starving to death.
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam - Dirty little secret: I actually like Spam.
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake - Rattlesnake, to be precise.

The Science of Magic

Great stuff from the New York Times about what magic - both stage and close-up - can teach scientists about cognition and perception. Check it out.

Diarrhea of the Mouth

My Dad always used to say about the Monday Night Football broadcast team - whether it was Howard Cosell and Don Meredith or Frank Gifford and the always-inane Dan Fouts - that they had diarrhea of the mouth.

I think NBC has discovered the all-time greatest, most chronic cases and put them together in a booth in Beijing. Of course, they did this in Sydney and Athens, too. I'm talking about the Olympic Gymnastics commentators, Al Trautwig, Tim Dagget and Elfi Schlegel ("Elfi?" Seriously?). This may be the worst team assembled to cover any sport in the history of televised sports.

Dagget and Schlegel are the analysts, both former gymnasts. Where they consistently and utterly fail as broadcasters is that it doesn't seem to occur to them that 95% of the population of the United States actually watches and cares about gymnastics only once every four years at best. They never offer any real insight, or really explain what's going on. I'd like to know what I'm supposed to be looking for as I watch the routines. The only real idea I have about whether a given gymnast has done well or not is the always-crucial sticking of the landing. All we ever get from Dagget and Elfi is, "Now here comes a big move...oh! Incredible!" or "Now, that was a mistake, and that's going to cost him!" Unless the mistake is completely obvious to the untrained observer, there's no way to know what the mistake was. Dagget and Elfi know, and the judges know, and the gymnasts know...but us laymen out here in TV land, we have no clue. All we know is that whatever happened, according to Dagget and Elfi, it was a mistake, and it's going to cost him. Great. Rather than educating or explaining, they assume that we're on the same level of knowledge as them. When I watch football, I don't need the commentators to explain what "holding" is or what makes an illegal forward pass or why the team is celebrating because they just carried the ball into the end zone. But I've spent four months of every year since I was 10 watching football. I've probably seen hundreds of football games in my life. I spend two weeks every four years being moderately interested in gymnastics, and having someone explain the rules to me at those times would be nice.

Of course, Dagget and Elfi are Al Goddamn Michaels compared to Big Al Trautwig. The guy just can't stand more than a nanosecond of silence. Anytime Dagget and Elfi aren't saying, "Oh, that was amazing! You can see why he's considered one of the greats!", Trautwig is just babbling, filling the silences without any consideration of the meaning or intelligence of his comments. No filter between brain and mouth. Just babbling. Not really commenting on anything, not making any real conversation with anyone, not saying anything meaningful, just filling the silence. Babbling.

Last night, as the final Chinese gymnast was dismounting the high bar and the celebration of China's gold medal was beginning, Trautwig burst out with, "There's a new China Syndrome and it's China Gold!" Uh...wait, what? Al, what in the name of JESUS H. TAPDANCING CHRIST does that even mean? Were you just trying desperately to come up with a familiar phrase with the word "China" in it? And you came up with "China Syndrome?" An American phrase referring to a severe meltdown at a nuclear power plant? "There's a new China Syndrome and it's China Gold!" You couldn't just say, "The crowd is going crazy as the Chinese team celebrates their gold medal triumph"? Not the most exciting turn of phrase, to be sure, but it has the virtues of making sense and actually meaning something, so it would be a start.

I know that ever since 1980, Olympic broadcasters have been trying to come up with something as memorable and iconic as Michaels' "Do you believe in miracles? YES!" But Al, "There's a new China Syndrome and it's China Gold!" ain't it.


Who here saw the Men's 4x100 Freestyle Relay last night? Show of hands.

Watching the swimmin' last night, I have to admit, I was getting pretty sick of Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines ("Rowdy?" Seriously?) babbling on and on about Michael Phelps when he wasn't even in the pool. They were babbling about him during women's races where there wasn't even an American in the pool, much less the subject of their adulation.

I understand that they want to promote him, that he's one of the big stars of the '08 Games, and I understand that he's got the potential to do something pretty amazing and historic. But you know, all those other swimmers worked their asses off, too, and hearing the commentators discuss the action actually occurring in the pool might be nice, y'know?

Despite that, I would love to see Phelps succeed in his quest. He seems in his interviews like a pretty nice, humble guy. A lot of people equate "competitive" with arrogant these days - but they're not the same thing. Yeah, Phelps has a competitive streak a mile wide. But he's never said anything to indicate that he thinks he deserves to win, or that a failure to win would be some sort of cosmic injustice. And to watch someone that good in his prime doing his thing...well, it's pretty awesome.

And goddamn but that was an exciting race. Maybe the most exciting single bit of Olympics I've ever seen (given that I wasn't even 3 years old for the Miracle on Ice in 1980). And best of all, it was broadcast (nearly) live, so I hadn't had the results spoiled by other news sources when I watched it.

I know that the thing to say is that you're not much of a partisan when it comes to the Olympics, that it's great to see so many great athletes from all nations doing well, that you don't really care about the Medal Count and all that...but I call bullshit. I want to see the USA win. And it's even better on those rare occasions when we're actually underdogs.

Two MinutesThirty Seconds Hate

John McCain's campaign ads have been pretty dumb right from the start. I was kind of dumbfounded by his recent ad that began with '60s-era stock footage, rambling about the Summer of Love and then reminding us that John McCain was a POW in Vietnam, reassuring us that McCain wasn't one of those dirty hippies (which creates the rather odd implication that McCain is accusing Obama, who turned 8 in 1969, of being a dirty hippie). I was further appalled by his next ad, which pretty much directly accused Barack Obama of being personally responsible for rising gas prices and touting Bush's McCain's sole - and utterly fucking useless, by the way - "solution" to the energy crisis, more drilling.

But the McCain campaign has really gone completely around the bend this time, from "ordinary (if slightly off-kilter) political mudslinging" to "total batshit insanity." Have you seen this thing? I can't find an embeddable version of the ad all by itself anywhere - you can go see it at McCain's website, here: DUMBEST POLITICAL AD IN HISTORY (Fair Warning: Viewing this ad is almost guaranteed to make you throw up in your mouth a little).

You've probably seen it, though - or at least heard about it. In it, the McCain campaign manages to keep a straight face and earnestly compare Barack Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.

Just when I thought McCain couldn't create a stupider ad, couldn't do anything to make their man more unappealing to me...they go and do this. Nice work, McCain Crew. You've officially created the DUMBEST POLITICAL AD IN HISTORY. Watching this for the first time, you think it must be an unauthorized ad from some lunatic-fringe 527 group. Surely the fine political minds at the McCain campaign couldn't actually create THE DUMBEST POLITICAL AD IN HISTORY themselves, right? But then, at the end, the obligatory, "I'm John McCain, and I approved this message."

Is the McCain campaign even interested in having any voter under the age of 90 vote for their man? Does their entire campaign really amount to "Those damn kids today!"? Well, honestly, I kind of hope so. But...really, John? "Don't vote for Obama because he's popular, just like those tramps what with the drinking and the sex and the walking around in public without any drawers on! And get the hell off my lawn!"

Possible upcoming McCain ads:

"Barack Obama isn't even bothered by those damn kids today who wear their pants all sagged around their knees!"

"Barack Obama wants to let kids climb your fence and trample your garden to get their damn ball back, even though this is the fifth or sixth time it's come over your fence, what's the matter with them, anyway?"

"Barack Obama doesn't support legislation to prohibit anyone but sailors, motorcycle gangs and others of low moral fiber from getting tattoos!"

"Barack Obama doesn't even remember back when you could go to the movies for a nickel, and that included popcorn and a Coke!"

"Barack Obama listens to that rap stuff, it's not even really music, what happened to real music, anyway?"

"Barack Obama wants to let the damn kids today play video games on a perfectly beautiful afternoon instead of going out and getting some fresh air and sunshine!"

And maybe it's just me - honestly, I hope it's just me, because I'd like to think that even the Republican party has risen above this twenty years later - but it seems to me that the McCain ads are pulling a Willie Horton, darkening the images of Obama they're using to make him look "blacker."

I mean, it's not like I was ever going to vote for McCain. But the more ads he puts out, the more I go from indifference to dislike to actively despising him.

A Marvelous Weekend, Indexed

Is it a rip-off of Harper's Index, or a rip-off of the now-ubiquitous Harper's Index rip-off blog post? Only your hairdresser knows for sure.


Minutes it Took to Eat an Entire Spicy Tuna Roll and Drink 1.5 Liters of Water After Getting off My Flight on Wednesday Night: >5

Bachelor/ette Parties Attended: 2 (1 each for myself and my better half)

Hours Spent Driving Round-trip to and from Milpitas to See a Movie I've Already Seen: 2.33

Approximate Awesomeness Quotient of The Dark Knight, Even The Second Time Around: 1,000,000,000

Approximate Level of Gladness on My Part That the Bachelorette Party Involved a Screening of Mamma Mia!, Thus Freeing Me From Ever, Ever Having to See It: 1,000,000,000

Tickets Won at Skee-Ball at Dave & Buster's After the Movie: 82

Number of Items That Can Be Purchased for 82 or Fewer Tickets at the Dave & Buster's Redemption Center: 0

Rehearsal Dinners Made/Hosted: 1

Hours Spent on Friday Prepping for Rehearsal Dinner: 6

Hours of Prep Time Devoted to Travel: 1.5

Of Travel Time, Approximate Ratio of Time Required to Get From Cousin's Place in the Outer Richmond to the Bay Bridge as compared to Time Required to Get From Bay Bridge to CostCo: 3:1*

Number of Distinct Dishes Prepared for Rehearsal Dinner: 6 (plus a potato salad from another contributor)

Guests Fed at Rehearsal Dinner: 26

Servings Left Over at Conclusion of Rehearsal Dinner, Taken Back as Promised to A Girl and a Boy, Whose Kitchen We Used for Prep Work: 2

Size of Serving I Was Able to Acquire by Scraping Dregs of Giant Bowl of Guacamole, Since I Was Last in Buffet Line: 1 Tsp.

Weddings Attended: 1

Approximate Percentage of Guests at Wedding That Danced, In Spite of Repeated Exhoratations: 15

Percentage of Guests Who Took Godzilla vs. Sumo Wrestler Photos at Wedding for Inclusion in Guestbook: 90

Percentage of Pages Used by Guests In Hand-made Guestbook Over Which Maker Toiled For Quite Some Time to Make it Large Enough for Everyone to Have Their Own Page: 25

Number of Times a Slightly Inebriated Mle Gave Me Directions as We Drove Back to Leah and Simon's House After The Wedding: 7

Number of Times This Was Followed by Me Saying, "I know.": 7

Number of Large Round Table Pizzas Personally Consumed by Myself at the After Party: .75

Approximate Air Temperature At the Time When Leah Could Not Believe I Was Getting in the Swimming Pool Because it Was "So Cold": 70° F

Approximate Air Temperature At the Time When Leah and Mle Both Became Concerned for My Health and Sanity When I Got Out of the Pool Because it Was "So Cold": 67° F

Number of Great Times Had by Guests at Various Wedding-Related Events: At least 2, probably more, though I can't speak for anyone but myself and Mle.

* Seriously, I'm sure there was a quicker and smarter way to get to the Bridge from where we spent the night, but my San Francisco geography is largely limited to well-known landmarks and a few major streets, and thus far too much time was spent driving through The City.

Holy That Was Awesome But Kind of Depressing, Batman!

So, yeah, what can I say about The Dark Knight that the whole world hasn't said already? Well, I'll give it a go.

Heath Ledger is, of course, mind-blowingly awesome and terrifying as the Joker - a force of pure chaos and a reminder why, in the hands of good writers, the Joker really works as Batman's arch-enemy. Every kid growing up in post-Baby Boom America has some creature from television or the movies that becomes their own personal boogeyman. I had a few nightmares about being turned into a blueberry after a probably-too-young-for-it viewing of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. For Mle, it was Gollum from the Rankin-Bass animated version of The Hobbit, and for her sister it was the wolf from The Never-Ending Story. I pity the kids whose parents took them to The Dark Knight, because all of those things are incredibly tame compared to the weeks of nightmares these kids are in for about Heath Ledger's Joker. I don't pity the parents who will be awakened in the middle of the night by their children's nightmares, because, well, you've got to be insane to take your five-year-old to a PG-13-rated movie that's been getting the word-of-mouth about being dark and scary that this one has. Enjoy those late nights, thoughtless parents!

Christian Bale solidifies his place as not just one of many guys who have played Batman, but THE Batman. He hits all the right notes as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Admittedly, it's not exactly the hardest title to earn when the previous contender for the title is wee, tiny, nebbishy Michael Keaton - but the poor schnook who next tries to play Batman after Bale's done with the role is going to learn what George Lazenby felt like trying to take over as James Bond after Sean Connery.

I'd like to be able to say that Maggie Gyllenhaal is a vast improvement over Katie Holmes in the role of Rachel Dawes, Batman's ostensible love interest. But, fine an actress as she is, she's not given anything to do, and spends her few brief scenes looking bored. It doesn't help that the costume department has her constantly dressed in dowdy old-lady clothes, which, combined with spectacularly unflattering lighting and makeup, make her look like she's about sixty-five years old.

Director Christopher Nolan is a master of character and mood, but, just as with Batman Begins, can't shoot a decent fight scene to save his life. It's not as big a flaw here as it was in Begins - as Dark Knight lacks the earlier film's emphasis on Batman's training and prowess as a martial artist. But still - c'mon, Chris. A fight scene should be extensively choreographed, just like a dance scene. You wouldn't cut a Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire dance scene with a million little frenetic half-second-long shots; why do you do it with a Batman fight scene? Part of the point of a Batman movie is to see that comic-book-style action come to life - to watch how Batman single-handedly dismantles an army of thugs or an entire SWAT team. Why deny us that with the annoying, unsettling million-cuts-and-shaky-handheld-camera style you've chosen?

Apart from that flaw - which is major but forgivable - this is damn near a perfect Batman movie. Dark and moody enough to make the black-hearted Batman Returns look like the Care Bears, but still not without a bit of humor, plenty of style and lots of excitement. Bravo to all involved.

Also - the biggest buzz in the geek-world aside from the awesomeness of Heath Ledger is the Watchmen trailer in front of the movie. I have to say, it looks pretty good, better than I thought it would - but I'm still pretty "meh" overall about the whole thing. Maybe the movie will be good, but I still don't see the need for Watchmen to be a movie in the first place.

Not Dead

I am not dead yet
I can dance and I can sing
I am not dead yet
I can do the Highland Fling

I am not dead yet
No need to go to bed
No need to call the doctor
Cause I'm not yet dead.

He is not yet dead
That's what the geezer said
No, he's not yet dead
That man is off his head

He is not yet dead
So put him back in bed
Keep him off the cart because he's not yet dead.

Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah*

I like soup.
And I like ice cream sandwiches, too.
I like fishsticks.
But I love you.

- Barenaked Ladies, "I Love You"

Happy (Not Wedding) Anniversary, Mle. Every day makes me happier that I posted my Yahoo Messenger ID in that message board thread way back in the spring of 2001, and even happier that I didn't just ignore that first IM you sent, and even happier still (in a way) that you were in a crappy job where you had nothing better to do than spend all day chatting on-line with some random pizza-slingin' weirdo from the armpit of Colorado, and even more happier still that I was some random pizza-slingin' weirdo who worked nights and so had nothing better to do between English Lit and said slingin' than chat on-line with some random neo-hippie girl from Berkeley. And even more more happier still that...well, you get the idea.

Thanks for seven great years, and thanks in advance for all the years to come.

*That means "I love you."

I Am Both Stirred and Shaken

Casino Royale was easily the best Bond movie at least since The Spy Who Loved Me, Roger Moore's unquestioned high point as 007*...and probably since On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

This, despite the clunky title (and yes, I do know that it's taken from an honest-to-god Ian Fleming Bond story), this trailer makes Quantum of Solace look like it just might be even better.

* Not that there's a lot of competition for this title, as many of Moore's 007 outings are entirely unwatchable, even to Bond fans.

Domo Ariagato, Mr. Roboto

I'll tell you right off the bat what I like about Pixar - whilst all the other CGI animation houses out there (as if there's any other kind anymore) are busy cranking out one Talking Animal Picture after another, those fine Emeryvillains just keep trying new things. I wasn't the biggest fan of Cars, but it had the virtue of being something different. And while, yes, last year's Ratatouille did, indeed, feature talking animals, you have to admit that it was a Talking Animal Picture of a very unconventional sort. While the other studios are busy with crap like Kung Fu Panda and Space Chimps, Pixar's out there taking risks. I mean, you've got a lot of virtuoso filmmaking to do if you want to make the idea of rats in a kitchen appealing rather than repulsive. But on the other hand, you can make an animated rat pretty cute, and the target audience - kids - have a pretty natural empathy with animals (thus, the glut of T.A.P.s, but I digress). So it's a risk, but not necessarily a huge one. On the other hand...

Let's say you're pitching a movie, and you're not Pixar, and the chief of the studio you're pitching to isn't John Lasseter. So you say, "Okay, the basic idea of the movie is that it's about a robot left behind on Earth to clean up after the human race has turned the whole planet into a landfill and abandoned it, and the robot is lonely until a girl robot comes along - and before you ask, no she's not a sexy humanoid-ish kind of robot with rivets on her ro-boobs where the nipples would be, she's kind of just a flying egg with wings. Anyway, the clean-up robot is obsessed with a Barbara Streisand musical, but he's straight anyway, and he falls in love with the flying egg girl robot. There's almost no dialogue in the movie, the only songs are going to be from that aforementioned Barbara Streisand musical, and the whole thing is pretty much a satirical take on modern consumer culture. Whaddaya think, boss?"

Few studios would go for it, I think - the pitch doesn't exactly scream "big summertime commerical hit." But the Pixar crew loves taking risks, and thus, WALL-E.

Roger Ebert has a short list of movies he describes as out-of-body experiences. The theater disappears, the smell of popcorn fades and the rest of the audience vanishes. The movie is real, and happening, and the real world doesn't exist for the duration of the movie's running time. WALL-E worked like that for me. The sneak preview crowd, noisy and filled with children raised on home video who have no understanding of the manners of going to a movie as it was, simply vanished, and the world the movie created was the only one that existed for 90 minutes or so.

The movie drew me in instantly, with a beautiful starscape and the opening lines of "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" from the 1969 film version of Hello, Dolly! I laughed, amused by the odd musical choice. Within moments, though, I understood it, as it became clear that this was not merely soundtrack but source music. WALL-E is listening to it as he works, creating tiny cubes of garbage and stacking them into enormous, horrifying and yet oddly beautiful towers, each the same size as the skyscrapers in the inundated city in which he works.

It is after the arrival of EVE - the flying egg girl robot - and her subsequent departure back to the mother ship (followed by WALL-E) that the movie really kicks into high gear. Wall-E encounters the remnants of humanity aboard the Axiom, in which the species originally fled from their own mess, and what a sorry lot we've become. People are shapeless, blubbery masses, drifting around the ship on floating chaise lounges, communicating exclusively through video screens, accomplishing everything they do by pushing buttons that activate robots, and consuming all sustenance through a straw ("Don't forget to get your complimentary cupcake in a cup," the captain announces in commemoration of the 700th anniversary of the 5-year cruise). Everywhere the passengers look (if they glance up from their video screens), they are surrounded by advertising. The job of the ship's captain is primarily to listen to the ship's computer's daily status report and make the daily announcements to the passengers.

Every moment of this movie is simply beautiful to behold. Pixar's movies have always been visual delights, but here, they've completely outdone themselves. Every corner of every frame contains something to look at. The garbage mountains are astounding, the starship is breathtaking. Every moment of running time, right down to the end credits, is a visual feast.

WALL-E himself is a strikingly charismatic and appealing lead. In visual terms, he owes a little something to the robot from Short Circuit - my dad, who clearly doesn't have the same memory I do for important information like terrible mid-'80s Steve Gutenberg/Ally Sheedy comedies, thought from seeing the ads that it was meant to be the same character. In terms of action and personality, well, I just can't imagine the hours the animators must have spent studying the films of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. For they, rather than "Johnny Five," are clearly the true inspiration for WALL-E. His face, such as it is, is at once impassive and yet oddly expressive, much like Keaton's. He explores the comedic possibilities of every prop he comes across, much like Chaplin. And like the great silent film comedians, he's escapes by the skin of his proverbial teeth in ever-mounting peril, against an entire world that's bigger and meaner than he is.

There is, of course, no small irony in a giant mega-corporation like Disney releasing this movie, with its wry take on giant mega-corporations (a conglomerate known as Wal-Mart Buy-n-Large is primarily responsible for both the trashing of the Earth and the sorry state of humanity). There is also no small irony in the certainty that this summer blockbuster, with its appealing robot characters just screaming to be turned into Happy Meal toys, is certain to be heavily licensed and merchandized, unleashing another tidal wave of cheap plastic crap onto the world. But maybe, just maybe, a few smart kids out there will see this movie, understand it, and just maybe decide not to scream to Mom about how they just neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed the fully-articulated WALL-E action figure on the family's next trip to Buy-n-Large.

Indiana Jones and the Peril of the Insane Fanboys

It was bound to happen, really.

I mean, when they announced Indy 4, you could practically feel the electric glee emanating from that certain class of Fanboy across the internet. You know the kind I mean - the ones who, once Revenge of the Sith had come and gone back in 2005, figured they would never again have the opportunity to type "George Lucas raped my childhood!" again. And then there was Indy 4.

I've read more than a few negative reviews of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull over the last couple of weeks. And of course, people are perfectly entitled to like or dislike the movie. It is, as I observed, certainly the weakest of the cinematic adventures of the good Dr. Jones.

But there is a certain class of movie-goer - the Fanboy - who works by an entirely different set of rules. To the Fanboy, there are only two kinds of movies - The Best Movie Ever (which almost never happens) and Absolute Garbage. And if it's Absolute Garbage, well...if it weren't bad enough that it's a bad movie, that also makes it "an Insult to the Fans," which is (in the eyes of the Fanboy) the worst offense any creative type can commit. I suspect that many of the Fanboys went in - put down their $10, no less - not only expecting but hoping to dislike the movie, because it would give them something to bitch and moan about on their message board of choice, and one more opportunity to recite the Fanboy Mantra, "George Lucas raped my childhood."

The most frequent refrain I've heard in the negativity surrounding Crystal Skull has to do with the scene wherein Shia LaBeouf's character pulls a trick out of Tarzan's book, swinging through the jungle on vines, surrounded by monkeys.

This is the moment that exemplifies what makes this movie terrible, I guess. This is where it lost those last few Fanboys who were still hanging in there. Because...well, I'm not sure why. Because it's implausible? Because it's unbelievable? Because it makes them think of Tarzan? I don't know.

In my original review, I mentioned a couple of things about the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Let's go back and take a look at that scene again, shall we?

So Indy and Crew make their way to some sort of hidden, ancient temple. As Indy and Dr. Octopus make their way into the temple's depths, Indy says, "Stop. Stay out of the light!" Confirming his suspicion, Indy sticks his hand into the shaft of sunlight that illuminates the temple's gloomy interior. Instantly, deadly spikes pop out of the wall, which would have impaled them if they had blindly entered that shaft of light. That's right...the ancient Incas (or whoever) constructed a death trap that was triggered by entering the shaft of light. This is followed, of course, by Indy accidentally triggering the trap when he removes the idol from the altar (and of course, we all remember from school when we learned about the Incas' ingenious counterweight-triggered death traps, right?), leading to him being chased out of the tunnel by a giant, perfectly spherical boulder ten feet in diameter.

So...Mutt pulling a Tarzan stretches the bounds of plausibility...but the very first appearance of Indiana Jones does not?

Everyone's also complaining about Indy escaping from a nuclear blast by climbing into a lead-lined refrigerator. Admittedly, at any of a half-dozen or so given points in that sequence, Indy ought to be dead. But he also survived the Ark of the Covenant's destruction of the Nazis not out of any special virtue or holiness or divine protection...but because he kept his eyes closed. Indy should be dead a hundred times over during the course of the first three movies...but he always manages to survive. That's kind of the point. To me, half the fun is the absurd ways he manages to survive the unsurvivable. Sit back, put yourself in the right mindset, and go with the flow.

That's the thing about the Fanboy. He's absolutely unable to even detect the flow, much less go with it. A Fanboy of my acquaintance was the type who couldn't stand The Lord of the Rings movies because they'd replaced Glorfindel with Arwen and cut out Tom Bombadil and the adventure with the Barrow-wights. Some friends were discussing the Revenge of the Sith trailer, thinking that it looked pretty good, and his sole contribution to the discussion was, "Oh, it's just going to be so insulting if this one is good!" Yes, because nothing is so insulting as a good movie.

The Fanboy can only nitpick. The Fanboy can only see Spider-Man and complain about organic web-shooters. The Fanboy can only see X-Men and complain that Wolverine and Storm weren't original members of the team. The Fanboy can only see Transformers and complain that Optimus Prime transforms into the wrong kind of truck. The Fanboy wears Rose Colored Glasses, remembering Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark as he first saw them, as a credulous child - but he's incapable of seeing Revenge of the Sith and Crystal Skull in the same way, because he's a jaded quasi-adult now. The Fanboy feels that anything that doesn't live up to his impossible standards isn't just bad - it's a personal slight.

No, I'm not trying to convince anyone who disliked Crystal Skull that they're wrong. I'm just saying that saying it's a bad movie for the reasons that the Fanboys are claiming without subjecting Raiders, or Temple of Doom, or Last Crusade to those same standards is insane. It's not so much that the Fanboy can't see the forest for the trees as that he can't see the trees for the pinecones, and is entirely unaware of the concept of the forest.

Or maybe he's just ignoring the forest because it's got Shia LaBeouf swinging through it on a vine.



Hopefully, this means that we don't have to hear Hillary put her foot in her mouth one more time speculating about just when and where Obama might be assassinated.

Hopefully, this means that we don't have to hear another word about all the poor, "disenfranchised" voters in Florida and Michigan who got screwed over by their state parties.

Hopefully, this means that we don't have to hear more whining from Hillary supporters about how the only reason Hillary could possibly be losing is blatant, unremitting sexism.

Hopefully, this means that we don't have to have our fond memories of Bill Clinton tarnished any further by his role as Hillary's snarling campaign attack dog.

Hopefully, this means that it is time to stop talking about the absurd idea that being First Lady somehow gives one lots of vital experience for the role of president and imaginary Bosnian snipers.

Hopefully, this means that it is time to get down to business, and spend the next 22 weeks reminding the country that John McCain is the wrong man for the job.

Hopefully, this means that it is time to start talking about the fact that it doesn't matter how old John McCain is, only that he's running on a platform of more of the same old shit from the last eight years that got us into the mess we're in in the first place.

Hopefully, this means that we're about to enter a new era of discussing problems instead of ignoring them, creating real solutions instead of fantasies with Orwellian doublespeak names, of acknowledging and appreciating our differences instead of accusing anyone who dares to disagree of "hating America" and being "with th' Tara-rists" and then waving our miniature American flags.


Keeping Up With the Joneses

Back in December of 2006, when George Lucas announced that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was going into production, I wrote, "Still, 'Hopes High, Expectations Low,' that's my motto. I hope it's great, every bit the equal of Raiders, or at the very least the equal of Last Crusade, and I'm excited about seeing it based on my hopes. But I don't expect much from it at all. If it meets my hopes, great. If it meets my expectations, too bad, but at least I'm not disappointed."

I went in with high hopes, and higher expectations than I really meant to. I was not disappointed. Is it the equal of Raiders? Certainly not, but what could be? Is it the equal of Last Crusade? Probably not. It's safe to say that it's the weakest of the Indiana Jones movies - but that doesn't mean it's a bad movie by any means. In fact, I thought it was pretty damn good. It hits all the right notes and very few wrong ones. There are great chases, narrow escapes, improbable fights, and all the stuff you want from an Indiana Jones movie.

For the most part, this movie sort of defies review. It's not like any of the previous movies had much intellectual content or emotional weight. The most heart any of them ever showed was the father/son stuff in Last Crusade. Crystal Skull tries to earn a few easy points with a few mentions of Sean Connery's character - but that's about it. Really, any review of an Indiana Jones movie has to come down to whether or not the action set-pieces work or not. And, well, they do, quite well.

Cate Blanchett makes a great villain, and is clearly having a great time playing against type and, (I don't think I'm spoiling anything here) when good triumphs and evil is punished, gets one of those fun, franchise-standard bizarre and gruesome deaths. Shia LaBoeuf is a good sidekick, and it's as much a delight to see Karen Allen's Marion Ravenwood return as I expected.

Is it dumb? Yeah, kind of. Does it occasionally make you roll your eyes and think, "Yeah, right?" Yeah, kind of. But, well, you also have to remember that our introduction to Indiana Jones involved a temple with booby traps that were triggered by Indy putting his hand into a shaft of light, and a giant, perfectly round boulder. Suspension of disbelief has always been tenuous at best where Dr. Jones is concerned. Which is just how it ought to be.

RIP Rory Root

Hi, everybody! Finals were busy as hell, internet access is spotty (at best) at home, and my Mom (Hi, Mom!) has been desperately wishing for a new post from me for two weeks so that the F-Word doesn't pop up at the top of the page every time she checks my blog.

And I just learned from Mark Evanier's site that Rory Root has died at the age of 50. Who's Rory Root? He was the owner of Comic Relief, an East Bay institution and one of the great comic book stores anywhere. I didn't actually know him, like Neil Gaiman did. I have always developed a friendly, conversational relationship with the owners and staffs of comics shops at which I was a regular customer - but I was only as regular a customer at Comic Relief as one can be when one lives a thousand miles away from it, so I can't say I even had a nodding acquaintance with Mr. Root.

Still, learning that he has died makes me sad.

The very first day I met Mle, she took me on a walking tour of Berkeley. She took me up Shattuck Avenue (this was before Comic Relief moved into their current Shattuck digs) showed me some of her old haunts on campus, and then we strolled down Telegraph, poking around in Moe's Books and Amoeba Records, laughing at all the trust-fund kids pretending to be gutter punks and asking for spare change, and then I saw a comic book store (this was, of course, the late Comics & Comix, for those familiar with the Berzerkeley), and of course I had to go in. I poked around for a while and bought a couple of things, and then we went back to Mle's apartment. Seeing me peruse my purchases, Mle's roommate asked if she had taken me to Comic Relief. "No," she said, "but next time he comes out I'll take him there."

Which she did, and it was then that I discovered what a comic book store can and should be. This was still pre-move, when they were in that tiny little shoebox of a space on University. Even so, I was astounded - it was well organized, it had an enormous, comprehensive selection not just of "floppies," but of trade collections and, ahem (if you must), "graphic novels." Staff was knowledgable and friendly, they didn't spend the whole time we were in there staring at Mle's boobs, and by god, 90-95% of the product they were selling was comics - not toys, not games, not "collectibles," but actual comics. Do I believe in love at first sight? With people, no. With comic book stores, yes.

Since then, a trip to Comic Relief has become an important part of any trip of substantial length to the Bay Area. Sometimes I don't have the dough to buy anything. Sometimes I go a little nuts and buy too much. But just going in there, browsing, discovering new titles and creators, it's worth it no matter what. It's a pilgrimage.

That's it. Never really met the guy, though I certainly saw him in the shop when I was in there. He certainly wouldn't have known me from Adam. But he created one of my favorite places in the world. So thanks for that, Rory.

Fuck You, Southwest Airlines

In all the years I've been flying, I've never had anything even remotely like this happen to me.

On the flight out, you hold the plane for half a goddamned hour to wait for one passenger to arrive from a different flight? After the number of times I've raced across an airport like an Olympic sprinter to make a connecting flight? Fuck you!

On the flight back, our suitcase comes off the carousel looking like it's been dragged behind a truck down a dirt road for twenty miles? Completely ruined and unusable. A brand-new, never-before-used piece of luggage, a wedding gift, for fuck's sake, and it gets destroyed when I check it! Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that there even was a replacement suitcase available at the customer service office - but am I really supposed to be happy when you destroy my baggage and then replace my nice suitcase with a cheap-ass Wal-Mart piece of shit?

Ah, the modern airline industry. Where the motto is, "What are you gonna do about it?" When you fly these days, you're going to take it up the ass, and you're going to pretend to like it, too. "You get what you pay for" + "low-cost carrier" doesn't really need to equal "getting fucked," does it?

Fuck you, Southwest Airlines.

Summertime, And The Movies Are Crappy...

As promised, a brief look at the upcoming summer flick slate:

Must See:
Iron Man: Trailers make it look like probably the best superhero flick since Spidey 2, and all the elements for greatness are there.
Speed Racer: Almost certainly going to be awful...but it's so shiny! People talk about summer movies as "eye candy," but in this case I think that's actually a good term. Yet another round of CGI creatures, Michael Bay ineptitude and explosions? Not eye candy. Something that looks like no other movie I've ever seen? Quite possibly eye candy.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Well, duh.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: The first one was good enough to keep me interested. Of course, the source material goes pretty rapidly downhill from here. I really, really hope they don't slug all the way through to The Last Battle, because, well, eeeuugh.
The Incredible Hulk: I liked Ang Lee's take on the Hulk a lot more than most people seem to have done. It was a little ponderous, though, and this looks anything but. Hopefully there's plenty of great "HULK SMASH!" action.
WALL-E: There are just no words for how gorgeous this trailer looks. If the movie is even a fraction as good as the trailer promises, we're in for a treat.
The Dark Knight: Looks to be another solid outing for the Nolan/Goyer/Bale take on Batman.

Get Smart: I always did like the original TV show, and Steve Carrell seems like a good fit for the role of Maxwell Smart. On the other hand, how many really worthwhile movies have been made from old TV sitcoms? Still, the trailer is more than just, "Remember 'Get Smart?' Well, hey, look, it's a movie now! Shoe phone! Cone of Silence! It's funny because you remember these things from before!" So that's pretty good.
Hancock: Hey, a Will Smith action-comedy coming out for the 4th of July! Imagine that! Well, at least it looks like it's probably more Men in Black than Wild Wild West.
The X-Files: I Want to Believe: Hey, one more romp with Mulder and Scully could be great, especially after the way things fizzled at the end the last time around. I understand they're aiming for more of the "non-mythology episode" feel this time around rather than lots of pointless and confusing stuff with Cigarette Smoking Man, cornfields, black oil and evil bees. Wise, that.
Tropic Thunder: I could easily go my entire life without seeing another Ben Stiller movie. But I can't help it - I think this one looks pretty funny.

Unlikely, But Maybe:

The Happening: M. Night Shyamalan has the chops to be a really good filmmaker. He's done it at least 1.75 times before. Maybe he'll get over the "Gotcha!" impulse and give us something worthwhile.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: I'm note sure whether releasing a new effort in The Poor Man's Indiana Jones franchise at the tail end of a summer sure to focus on The Rich Man's Indiana Jones (that being, well, you know, Indiana Jones) is a great idea or not. But it might be worth checking out.

Well, Maybe If You Paid Me To:

Made of Honor: My only vague interest in this is whether they're claiming this is an original screenplay or if they've given on-screen credit to the writers of My Best Friend's Wedding.
You Don't Want to Mess With Zohan: Hey, look, there's still Adam Sandler, for some reason.
Step Brothers: Hey, look, there's still Will Ferrell, for some reason.
The Love Guru: Hey, look, there's still Mike Meyers, for some reason. How much you want to bet he stands behind a couch and pretends to be rowing a canoe, and then does a wacky Scottish accent?
Kung Fu Panda: Hey, look, another computer-animated anthropomorphic animal movie! Can't have too many of those!
Mamma Mia!: A movie based on a Broadway musical revolving around the music of ABBA. And you thought musicals couldn't get any worse than John Travolta in drag!

...and the award for Movie I Just Won't See, Even If You Pay Me $100 and Give Me Free Popcorn and My Weight in Junior Mints goes to:

Sex and the City: Couldn't be less interested. Can't imagine why anyone would be (yes, I know some people would say the same of some of my "Must-see" picks). Hated every single thing about "Sex and the City" when it was a TV show. And no matter how hard the Hollywood press and the cosmetics industry and whoever else try to convince me that she's GORGEOUS, Sarah Jessica Parker looks like a horse.

Workers of All Nations, Unite

Since Cil made a post about May Day/Beltane already, I figured I'd give a shout out to the proletariat and wish the oppressed underclasses of the world a happy International Worker's Day. In all of those nations of the world where the Communist Dream has already come true, happy International Worker's Day! In all of those nations of the world where you're still in that, um, "transitional phase" of totalitarian government that pretends you're all living in a laborer's paradise, happy International Worker's Day, and keep reaching for that rainbow! In all of those nations whose working classes have yet to revolt, the time is now!

Or something. Thanks anyway to Karl Marx and Vlad Lenin for being indirectly responsible for some important developments in the history of graphic design and cinema.

Speaking of which, May Day also means the start of the big Summer Blockbuster movie season, about which, more later today. Keep your eyes peeled, true believers.

Get Off My Lawn!

I turned 31 yesterday, which I think officially makes me a Crotchety Old Man, entitled to complain about anything and everything. Here's what's bugging me this week:

  • So it turns out that Hannah Montana was not born wearing trendy fashions from Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe and is, in fact, naked under her clothes. This, apparently, is a Major Problem. And I mean, "Major Problem" on the order of "the Dixie Chicks dared to criticize the President" Major Problem, as this has at least one Internet Moron proposing a Nazi-style public bonfire to burn Hannah Montana merchandise.
  • Other Internet Morons are claiming that Barack Obama has somehow sacrificed his right to complain about his treatment at the debacle that was the recent ABC debate, because he turned down Hillary's absurd offer for yet another debate. What does Obama possibly stand to gain from it? How could that offer be even remotely attractive to him? Of course he's not going to do it, but that doesn't mean he's sacrificed anything or given up his right to complain when the media persists in asking him about Reverend Wright and an offhand remark he made while addressing a private audience of chardonnay-sipping San Francisco liberals.
  • Has any internet phenomenon gone from amusing to annoying to enraging faster than "Stuff White People Like"? Even LOLCats had a longer shelf life. It was funny the first time I saw it, then I looked again and thought, "Hmm, kind of a one-trick pony, isn't he?" and now, it's all I can do not to strangle someone who tells me how funny this misbegotten shitheap of a humor blog is. Yep, white people are liberal weenies. As Homer Simpson would say, "Oh, it's true, it's true! We're so lame!"
  • Saturday is Free Comic Book Day. No, FCBD isn't annoying me - it annoys me that I forgot to put up a countdown widget on my sidebar this year, but that's beside the point. Here's what's sticking in my craw: The great big giant Iron Man movie is coming out on Friday - maybe you've heard something about it? I hear they're promoting it just a bit. So...a big comic book movie is coming out on Friday, Free Comic Book Day is on Saturday. The smart folks at WizKids, who make the popular HeroClix game, have provided an Iron Man HeroClix figure as a giveaway for FCBD. Pretty clever, right? Synergy, they calls it. So, naturally, the smart folks at Marvel must have done the same thing, right? Maybe people who just saw Iron Man on Friday night stop into a comic book store on Saturday, and you give 'em a free Iron Man comic. Brilliant! Maybe people stop into a comic book store who haven't seen the movie yet, and you give 'em a free Iron Man comic, maybe even one that ties into the movie somehow, and you promote the big movie right alongside the comics. Brilliant! So...why is Marvel giving out a fucking X-Men comic for Free Comic Book Day? You have the perfect confluence of dates, and you just don't care. Way to promote your ostensible primary product, Marvel!
  • DC's not a whole lot better, by the way - why are they giving out a Superman comic (though it is, admittedly, an awesome comic, by general consensus the best Superman has been in years) when there's a big Batman flick coming out in six weeks? Sports columnist Bill Simmons talks about teams needing a "VP of Common Sense" to analyze trades and draft picks. I think maybe Marvel and DC need one of those, too, in their marketing departments.

How Do You Like Them Apples?

Now enjoy one of the best hockey calls of all time, courtesy Mike Haynes, voice of the Colorado Avalanche.

Okay, so Haynes has always been a bit of a homer. But goddamn, that's a great call. I'd rather have a homer who gets excited when TOTALLY AWESOME SHIT happens than Joe Buck droning through one of the most exciting plays in Super Bowl history as though it was a two-yard run by an unknown running back in the third quarter of a pre-season game.

Mr. Mole Maker, Won't You Make More Mole for Me?

I love to cook. Why? Well, because I love to eat. Every now and then, someone asks what my favorite food is. My response? Well, how could I even begin to choose? How can I have a favorite in a world so full of fantastic, amazing, incredible, wonderful food? How could I possibly say that I like the sublime beauty of sushi over the less-refined but more id-pleasing joy of digging into a paper carton of General Tso's chicken? I can't, no more than I could really say that I like a great ribeye more than I like a great cheeseburger. I couldn't possibly pick a favorite food - but I do know that mole has to be near the top of any list.

I know that Mexican restaurants are kind of stuck for an easy answer when somebody asks, "What is mole?" How can you describe mole in a few words? "It's a sauce made with chiles and chocolate" is sort of the standard answer. Which, yeah, is a fairly functional explanation, but it's sort of like if someone were to ask you, "Who are the Beatles?" and you were to reply, "A band from England that was popular in the '60s."

Once, a restaurant I was working at got a new chef. When he had been there for a couple of weeks, he introduced a new appetizer involving mole. Curious, I asked, "What kind of mole is it?" There are as many kinds of mole as there are little villages and towns in Mexico, after all, with different ingredients, different colors, different flavors. I sort of expected that he'd have at least some familiarity with this. This was a chef, after all, who had just days before spent a good five minutes angrily bitching out the entire waitstaff about our lack of knowledge because none of us was familiar with the word concass├ę, with the implication being that none of us idiots were fit to serve his brilliant artistic creations to the hungry masses. So I expected at least a little knowledge from him when I asked what kind of mole he was making.

"It's a very traditional mole," he said. Oh, okay. Sort of like asking what kind of sauce he was putting on a pasta and hearing, "It's a very traditional pasta sauce." Not unexpectedly after such a response, that shit tasted like the man had tossed some jalape├▒os, a banana and a Hershey bar in a blender and dished it up.

I'm pleased to say that, with an assist from Rick Bayless, I think I'm beginning to get a handle on mole-making. For dinner guests last night, I decided that mole would be just the thing. This required a trip to a different grocery store than either of the two we usually shop at on Sunday afternoon and, when that one didn't have the dried chiles I needed, a trip over to one of the Mexican grocery stores on Federal Avenue. Sunday afternoon and evening was given over entirely to mole making.

Reconstituting the toasted ancho and guajillo chiles.

A variety of ingredients draining after being fried; clockwise, we have almonds, raisins, white bread (a sliced Mexican bolillo roll), corn tortilla, peanuts, pumpkin seeds.

Frying onions and garlic.

Two purees waiting to be mixed; on the left, a mixture of spices (chile seeds, sesame seeds, grated avocado pit), the nuts, raisins, bread and tortilla, the onions and garlic, tomato and tomatillo, plus chicken broth. On the right, the chiles.

I had to pause to wash some dishes in the midst of the process, because I was out of counter space in the kitchen.

The two purees are combined and set to simmer, along with some more chicken broth and some Mexican chocolate.

The great thing about mole is that you can make it in advance, and it will only get better sitting in the fridge for a couple of days.

I have fallen madly in love with the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducin' Grilling Machine that we got as a wedding gift. It makes a thoroughly convenient way to cook even a big mess o' chicken.

And there you have it!

Mmm...mole. Delicious, delicious mole. Spicy, sweet, smoky,, so good.

Open, Sez Me

This weekend was an annual event called Doors Open Denver, in which various local landmarks open their doors for the public to come in and take a peek around. A lot of them are churches, and it's kind of cool to go into a church and not have to hear about Jesus and stuff. Above, stained glass at the St. John's Episcopal Cathedral.

Trinity United Methodist Church

The world-famous Brown Palace Hotel's atrium - they opened up the "Beatles Suite," where one of the Fab Four stayed when the boys played Red Rocks in '64 (or at least, I assume only one of them stayed in the particular room that was open to the public, as there was only one bed and I don't think they were that friendly with one another), and the Presidential Suite, which has hosted every president since Teddy Roosevelt except that rat bastard Calvin Coolidge...

...and in which the bed linens match the wallpaper. The Beatles Suite looked like pretty much any other fancy hotel room. The Presidential Suite was a step above.

Notre Dame Hockey rally that happened to be going on outside the downtown Comfort Inn, across the street from the Brown Palace, as the Irish hockey team boarded their team bus to head over to the Pepsi Center for the NCAA hockey championship game (which they lost to Boston College).

Here's a picture of our kitties, because they're cute. I'm in ur window, watchin ur brekfist.

Rose Window, Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

The inside of the Cathedral is pretty amazing - there's more windows than in any of the older cathedrals we saw in Italy, letting in loads of light.

And it's all really, really beautiful, too.

Also fascinating are the bas-relief Stations of the Cross that line the interior walls.

We didn't make it to the Molly Brown House - which would have been worth doing mostly because this is the one time in the year that it's free; I don't know that I would be willing to pay to see it, the Daniels & Fisher Tower or the Capital for a vanishingly rare dome tour...well, there's always next year, I guess.


Here we have the cover to Fantastic Four #1 - if you're a reader of superhero comics, you surely recognize it. Drawn by Jack Kirby, it's one of the most famous, iconic covers in the history of the genre.

And, kind of sucks. I mean...look at it!

It proudly proclaims that it features, "'The Thing!' 'Mr. Fantastic!' 'Human Torch!' 'Invisible Girl!' Together for the first time in one mighty magazine!" Uh...well, yeah, they're together for the first time. And, as of the publication of this first issue, they're together for the only time, as it's the first appearance of all four of these characters. It's not like they're giving us, "Superman and Batman - Your two favorite heroes in one adventure together!" or the first team-up of four heroes who have, oh, I don't know, any sort of publishing history at all...I know that absurd hyperbole has always been sort of Marvel "house style," but this is just ridiculous.

So here we have the Human Torch. So far, so good. More or less dead-center in the composition, as is befitting the character with the most visually dynamic power of the quartet. He's also always been my favorite FF member, so I've got no problems with the presentation. Sure, he looks a little odd here compared to later depictions, but it always takes an artist a little while to refine the way he draws a new character. At least Johnny's looking better here than his opposite number, the X-Men's Iceman, did in his early and rather ridiculous "snowman" form. The central placement may also have been meant as an enticement to readers who remembered or were familiar with the original Human Torch, and might have wondered if this was the same character.

Next, let's take a look at the character destined to become the fan favorite, Benjamin J. Grimm, the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing. Not to be confused with the ever-lovin' one-eyed thing...totally different. All seems well and good...until you notice that he's randomly smashing some poor schnook's car as he prepares to "take a hand." A bit of collateral damage is inevitable when superheroes are fighting a monster, of course, but does Ben really have to exacerbate the problem? Also, his dialog seems to indicate that he's been sitting on the sidelines, just watching while his teammates battled the big green monster, before deciding that he might as well go help out.

We turn our attention now to Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl,, well, "can't turn invisible fast enough." For what, Sue? What the damnhell good is turning invisible going to do you? The monster has you in its grip, and its focus appears to be pretty focused on the Torch and the Thing. What the hell does it matter if you're visible or not? And why does it matter if it takes you the blink of eye or thirty seconds? It blows my mind that Stan and Jack didn't realize, just on the basis of this cover, that they had given Sue a fairly useless power. It took them nearly two years to add her force field ability! How could they not look at her failure to "turn invisible fast enough" and think, "Hey, maybe she should be able to do a little more than that if we're going to have her fighting big green monsters and such..."

Yeah, it's true. When your power is that you're, like, stretchy and stuff, it will indeed take more than ropes to keep you out of action. Who in the name of Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ tied you up? Did the monster tie you up? Did the monster attack while you and Sue were playing some sort of kinky bondage the middle of a busy Manhattan street...while fully clothed? I mean...I mean...I mean...I know it's gotta be tough, even for Jack Kirby, to draw a dynamic and exciting cover that tells you right away what each character's power is. But I really gotta the hell did Reed get tied up in the first place?

Okay, it doesn't actually suck. It's just, well, it's just damned odd, that's all.