Entertainment Archive

Pilgrim....

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Back in 1971, my dad took me to see the only John Wayne movie I remember seeing in a movie theater — Big Jake. A few scenes from the movie have stuck with me through the years:

  • the posse making its way through the countryside in automobiles, with Jake McCandles' son on a motorcycle in lieu of a horse;
  • the shower/shotgun scene;
  • the revelation of the contents of the strong box.

Certain visuals are bound to make lasting impressions, but over the years I've had equally strong recollections of what are likely to be the two most quotable bits of dialogue. Anyone with a passing familiarity with the history of American film ought to recognize:

John Fain (the villain): I thought you were dead.
Jacob 'Big Jake' McCandles: Not hardly.

Not just Fain; virtually every character in the movie says the same thing to McCandles.

And then, of course, there's the most famous line in the film:

McCandles to Fain: And now you understand. Anything goes wrong, anything at all... your fault, my fault, nobody's fault... it won't matter - I'm gonna blow your head off. No matter what else happens, no matter who gets killed, I'm gonna blow your head off.

For many years, I couldn't quote that verbatim, but I never forgot it. When I bought my first VCR at the PX in Korea in 1988, Big Jake was one of the first tapes I bought to go with it.

If you haven't seen a John Wayne movie in a while, or haven't seen much of his later work, you wouldn't go far wrong with Big Jake.


This came to mind this morning as I watched McLintock! instead of sleeping, while waiting for an early morning visit from the Air Conditioning Fairy repair guy. Another great Wayne movie, definitely lighter fare, with the added bonus of the always gorgeous Maureen O'Hara.

And of course, it's eminently quotable.

G. W. McLintock: I haven't lost my temper in forty years, but pilgrim you caused a lot of trouble this morning, might have got somebody killed... and somebody oughta belt you in the mouth. But I won't, I won't. The hell I won't!
[Proceeds to belt "pilgrim" in the mouth.]

John Wayne was the best.

Important information

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Click for full-size image.

See also: the Zombie Survival Guide.

There's no such thing as being too prepared.

Packet - Treat Hunter

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Packet knows what he wants.

Good thing he doesn't have opposable thumbs.

Quick Netflix Review

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Moon (2009)
Written and directed by Duncan Jones. Starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey.

Quick review: After Galaxy Quest, would you ever, I mean ever, in your wildest dreams, imagine Sam Rockwell was that good an actor?

I wouldn't have.

I know different now.

4½ stars


Seriously good movie — the kind that can make the career of a writer, director, or actor.

I've been watching a lot of classic TV via my Netflix account, streaming through my Blu-Ray player. Seeing the old shows has been like seeing old childhood friends.

Last night, I continued my viewing of Dragnet, the archtypical cop show. In one episode, Sergeant Joe Friday speaks to a group of recent high school graduates from the inner city, trying to gain new recruits for the LAPD.

He made arguments that, I think, would stand up well more than 40 years later. Heck, if I were young and physically capable, I might consider a career in law enforcement, based on Friday's sales pitch.

One of the young men in the meeting, however, clearly did not pay enough attention.

Yeah... that's O. J. Simpson. Murderer, currently doing time for robbery.

Seeing him in that meeting on-screen was more jarring than his appearances in the Naked Gun comedies.

Last night — this morning, really — after work, via the Netflix streaming capability of my Blu-Ray player (woohoo!) I watched a bunch of episodes of that great classic police show, Adam-12.


During the episode "I'm Still A Cop," wherein Officer Malloy (Martin Milner) balances his duty as a law enforcement officer with his part-time attendance at a local college, the students do what students did in the '60s: riot. The student radicals seize an administration building and hold the college president in his office. The police rescue him without violence; ultimately, Malloy foils a bomb plot staged by one of the radicals.

Being a 1960s TV show, the hippies depicted therein were rather more clean-cut than one might expect of 1960s college students. They dressed fairly well, and all of them appeared to have bathed in the recent past.

No, I don't like hippies — even fictional recently-washed hippies. If I see a clean hippie, I expect fire hoses and wire brushes to have been involved in the cleaning.

As I watched, I couldn't help but wish that episode had gone down the path of Maximum Baton Utilization.

The road not taken....

*sigh*

Quick Netflix Review

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Dexter: Season 1
Starring Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter, Erik King

Quick review: How and why did it take so long for there to be an entry in the vigilante serial killer genre? And... is it wrong to occasionally root for the serial killer?

4½ stars


It's a Showtime production, so caveats about language and adult content are definitely applicable.

You might also be prepared for gruesomeness.

That said, this is a remarkable series. The viewer sees things from the viewpoint of sociopath Dexter Morgan who, having been adopted and raised by a cop, has been taught to cover his tracks exceptionally well. So well, in fact, that he blends invisibly into society, working as a police forensics expert, and going through the motions of dating a woman — and doing surprisingly well at the latter, despite his utter lack of emotion or empathy.

The one slightly redeeming aspect to his behaviour is that he only kills those who, being guilty of the worst crimes, have escaped judicial punishment.

Dexter's inner monologue is unexpectedly fascinating, and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, as he describes the lengths he goes to put on the appearance of being normal. By the end of the first episode, I actually felt pity for the character.

Michael C. Hall is outstanding in the lead, and is backed by a terrific ensemble cast. James Remar's scenes as Dexter's late father, shown in flashbacks, are particularly noteworthy, and show much of how Dexter came to be who he is.

All in all, a well-done series, worth watching.

Coulter in Canada

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Ann Coulter had, shall we say, a bit of difficulty getting her message out to college students in Ottawa earlier this week. The intolerance of the Left was on full display.

Fortunately, however, she had a full hour, free from rude interruptions or censorship, on Canadian TV with chat show host Michael Coren.* Smitty at The Other McCain points to the first of five parts, but the whole show is fun viewing if you like Coulter... and probably head-asplodingly infuriating if you don't.

Me, I liked it.


Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5


* Smitty calls Coren "a cheap Canadian imitation of Bill O’Reilly." This is grossly unfair towards Coren. Bill O'Reilly is a pompous windbag, and a poor imitation of actual class acts like Michael Coren.

Naming Conventions

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I've decided that if I ever need to go underground, assuming a new identity, I want my new name to be "Big McLarge-Huge."

"Punch Rockgroin" comes in a close second.

I think I've brought it up before, but if you haven't seen the greatest movie review ever done, I most highly recommend the seven-part brutally funny takedown of George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace.

"Brutal" is an understatement.

"Funny" doesn't come close to describing it.

And Language Warning should not be ignored by the sensitive.

Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7


While scanning channels yesterday, I noticed that the movie was airing on basic cable, so on a lark I recorded it, and watched it after work.

Wow.

It had been several years since I'd seen it. Holy cow, it really is awful. The creator of the above review could easily have gone another hour shredding the idiocy of the script (written by an eight-year-old, indeed) characters and action ("Infantry tactics? Never heard of them.") not to mention some of the ludicrous design elements. I literally laughed out loud at some of the inane things gracing the screen that hadn't been detailed in the review.

Two words: Midichlorian conception.

Fortunately, my time wasn't completely wasted. I spent the duration of the movie working on my ship model and making good progress at it; details soon.

Do be sure to watch the review above in its entirety, all seven parts. Set aside a hour or so — it'll be worth the time.

You'll never again be able to watch the movie without thinking "What is wrong with your face?"

Coincidence?

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I've gotten a ton of traffic this past week — the usual search result for "naked chicks with guns" having been supplanted as #1 by searches for pictures of curling.

Odd, that. I can't imagine why either would be a popular search....

For the record, I have in fact been watching a lot of curling during this Olympic season. It seems to me to be the perfect sport for a geek to enjoy. It's rather a lot like the engineering field in some respects: it requires precision and finesse, and a small mistake can lead to disaster.

Hot Hot Hot

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Jeremy Clarkson may be best known to Americans as the host of Top Gear, which can be seen on BBC America.

Aside: I'm not a car guy by any means, yet I record and watch Top Gear almost religiously — it's simply terrific television. Some segments seem to me to be among the best pieces of filmmaking ever produced for television. I am particularly taken with this segment featuring Top Gear co-host James May taking the Bugatti Veyron out for a spin:

I really do think that's among the best pieces of TV filmmaking ever produced.

OK, back to the point here. Clarkson may be best known for Top Gear, but he made his bones, so to speak, as a journalist, and continues to write a column for the Times of London. If I had to compare him to anyone here in the US, it might be Dave Berry... but Clarkson is, to my way of thinking, a far better writer.

As an added bonus, he is that rarity: an European who actually delights in not being politically correct. That alone makes him worth a read.

In one of my favorite columns, Clarkson addresses the H-bomb of the kitchen, hot sauce, and in the process delivers several shots to one of his favorite targets, the nanny state.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where everything comes with a warning notice. Railings. Vacuum cleaners. Energy drinks. My quad bike has so many stickers warning me of decapitation, death and impalement that they become a nonsensical blur.

The result is simple. We know these labels are drawn up to protect the manufacturer legally, should you decide one day to insert a vacuum-cleaner pipe up your bottom, or to try to remove your eye with a teaspoon. So we ignore them. They are meaningless. One drop at a time! Use extreme caution! On a sauce. Pah. Plainly it was just American lawyer twaddle.

No, it wasn't twaddle.

Read on, and enjoy: Help, quick — I've unscrewed the top on a ticking bomb.


As a further aside, I'd like to note that my birthday is coming up in three months. If anyone would like to get me a Veyron to mark the occasion, I wouldn't complain. I believe one can be had for approximately $1.7 million. Three months ought to be enough time, no?


Addendum: Clarkson would probably disdain and reject the label of "European" — he is English. I'd concur.

Quick Netflix Review

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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
(Directed by Tim Burton. Starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Sasha Baron Cohen, etc.)

Quick review: I knew it was going to be "dark," but... ho... ly... crap.

3½ stars


Depp, as always, impresses.

This is the sort of movie that, in a cultural literacy sense, everyone probably ought to be familiar with, to some degree, but I don't think I'm going to be watching it again. Ever. I'm not one for a lot of blood and gore on screen.

Four Cats

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Four men — an Engineer, an Accountant, a Chemist, and a Government Employee — were bragging about how smart their cats were.

To show off, the Engineer called his cat, "T-square, do your stuff."

T-square pranced over to the desk, took out some paper and pen and promptly drew a circle, a square, and a triangle.

Everyone agreed that was pretty smart, but the Accountant said his cat could do better. He called his cat and said, "Spreadsheet, do your stuff."

Spreadsheet went out to the kitchen and returned with a dozen cookies. He divided them into 4 equal piles of 3 cookies.

Everyone agreed that was pretty good, but the Chemist said his cat could do even better. He called his cat and said, "Measure, do your stuff."

Measure got up, walked to the fridge, took out a quart of milk, got a 10 ounce glass from the cupboard and poured exactly 8 ounces into the glass without spilling a drop.

Everyone agreed that was pretty good indeed.

Then the three men turned to the Government Employee and said, "What can your cat do?"

The Government Employee called his big fat cat and said, "Coffee Break, do your stuff."

Coffee Break jumped to his feet, ate the cookies, drank the milk, crapped on the paper, screwed the other three cats, claimed he injured his back while doing so, filed a grievance report for unsafe working conditions, put in for Workers Compensation, and went home for the rest of the day on sick leave.

[Thanks, Mom.]

Religious Fireworks

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When I hear about rockets being fired at a church, I automatically assume it's Palestinians firing into Israel.

Neither side here, though, appears to be reciprocating with laser-guided bombs.

As Mætenloch says over at Ace of Spades HQ,

Everyone should watch it once. But only a fool watches it twice. You have been warned.

I'm only putting it here for your viewing "pleasure." I've already seen it, while I was on convalescent leave after surgury two years ago. I think it delayed my recovery.

The mere memory of it makes me want to scrub my eyeballs.

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.*

Opening in theaters this weekend: 2012

The movie postulates that Mayan predictions of the end of the world — their calendar ends in December, 2012 — are accurate. It apparently has to do with planetary alignments and some such rot — never mind that there's no actual evidence for any of those claims.

Nevertheless, a special effects extravaganza ensues.

Well, here are my predictions:

1) The movie will suck like a fusion-powered Electrolux.

2) Nevertheless, it'll make approximately 17 trillion dollars.

and the big one:

3) The world won't end in 2012.

I know for a fact that the world will end on December 31 of this year. That's when this calendar I have right here ends, so it has to be true.

Right?

Right.

Brain Dead

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I'm operating on a total lack of sleep last night/this morning, so I'm not at my thinkin'est best... indeed, I'm a vitual zombie at this point.

I've been led to believe there have been some elections today; I hear the New Jersey governor's race is within the margin of fraud. I suppose I could turn the TV on to a news channel to find out more... but if I get bored and fall asleep right now, my body clock will be completely hosed for the work week ahead.

I think I have an episode of Top Gear on the DVR... that'll keep me awake for an hour. After that, we'll see.

Quick Netflix Review

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Knowing
(Directed by Alex Proyas, starring Nicholas Cage and a bunch of other people I never heard of.)

Quick review: 50 years advance knowledge, and the best they can do is whisper in a few kids' ears? Aliens are major league a-holes.

1½ stars


Once again, I am underwhelmed.

I'm really trying, and I can think of only two Nicholas Cage movies — Con Air and National Treasure — that I finished without wondering how to get back those two hours of my life.

Geek Bliss

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One really, truly great thing about being a denizen of the wee hours of the morning: I'm getting about three T1s of download speed — and not irritating my neighbors while doing so. I'm getting a bunch of episodes of Law & Order: UK.

Yes, that's right — UK. They're everywhere.

Unnatural Selection

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I hear, lately, of people saying they will refuse to get immunized for H1N1 when the vaccine soon becomes available, either out of some sort of concern about the safety of the vaccine or — get this — because vaccinations are some sort of Government Plot™.

Allow me to opine: those people are idiots.

Even if there was a problem with vaccines causing unrelated illnesses — a point I am not willing to concede without a minimum of a metric tonne of evidence; the plural of "anecdote" is not "data" — you have to consider the odds.

Now, I know math is a weak point in the education of a great many people... perhaps 98% of them. But let me sum it up this way: a million-to-one chance of getting sick from a vaccine is approximately 10,000 times better than a 1% death rate from the H1N1 virus. If the H1N1 mortality rate is only 0.05%, the odds then are still 500 times better.

I am not a betting man, but I know which way I'll bet on this one.


A thought-provoking read that covers (among many other things) the subjects of viruses and vaccines is John Ringo's The Last Centurion. Being written from the point of view of a soldier, it is, shall we say, rather coarse... but it's an astonishingly good read.

Hitler rants about ACORN

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Hitler's rants from the film Downfall have been fodder for hundreds of parodies.

My first-ever shot at making a humorous* video is a bit topical. I wondered last night how long it would be before someone did this... then reasoned that perhaps I ought to do it myself. It made for a longish evening.

So here goes.

I'm guessing they will end up out of the bunker and under the bus.


* Assuming one defines "humorous" broadly.


Update, 21Oct09: Philadelphia... LOL.

Just when you thought it was safe to resume your empty pathetic lives, here I come, the website on a new smokin'-fast server, with another slice of sheer awesome from the '90s.

I hope you didn't really think any "grand tour" of amazingly good music would really be complete without including a sample of Pink Floyd. Because then I'd have to do some more butt-kicking, and to be honest, I can't keep up with it all.

Now, their best-known work obviously came in earlier decades... but their later oeuvre* is, in my not so humble opinion, of equal or greater quality.

Plus, they put on an absolutely phenomenal live show.

I actually got to see them at the Rose Bowl on their Division Bell tour in 1995 or '96. It was easily the one of the best concerts I have ever been to.


* It's French, meaning "body of work," and I'll thank you not to snicker at my use of "French" and "work" in the same sentence.


Moving right along....

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Having previously sampled the musical greatness of the 1960s, '70s and '80s, you might think that I should move on to the 1990s.

Well, if you insist. There is a surprising amount of excellence from which to choose.

Now, some might question my judgement in such matters. Not to my face, of course. Cowards.

True story: in order to be slotted into my former career as a military linguist, I had to have excellent hearing. In fact, my hearing was much better than normal*, and I was trained to listen very carefully. Even now, 20+ years later, after losing some of my hearing, I figure that when I actively and deliberately listen to things I can hear the details better than most people can.

So when I say this next song is full of Goodness and Rightness, it's because I have listened to it in detail.

When it comes right down to it, the entire album from which this is drawn, Cracked Rear View, is full of musical WIN.

Don't even think of gainsaying me. The result would be... unpleasant.


* I could hear dog whistles. Really.

As if that wasn't enough....

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Try as I might, I just can't run out of sheer musical awesomeness from the 1980s.

I feel pretty sorry, really, for my nephew and nieces who, having been born in the '90s, have been forced by circumstance to listen to all the crap that is mistakenly referred to as "music" these days. Through no fault of their own, they missed out on all the aforementioned '80s awesomeness.

Case in point:

I dare you to try to count the ways in which that kicked butt. Go ahead. Try.

I'll wait.

There was so much great music in the '80s, one song isn't a representative sample, despite the sheer indisputable awesomeness of that previous example.

Shut up. I'll mess you up, surely I will.

So here's a taste of the late '80s, heard in every GI bar in Korea during my 1988-90 tour. If you were born after 1960, crank up the volume and enjoy Armageddon It.

Verily, it doth rock.

There's a beat-down awaiting those who disagree with me.

Just because I'm crippled doesn't mean I can't deliver said beat-down — Rick Allen lost an arm and is still out there drumming. The least I can do is take down anyone who doesn't think Def Leppard ruled.

Listen up.

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I'm sure you agreed with me about the previously mentioned songs, the first from 1966, the second and third from 1974 and 1978 respectively. All three are made of pure awesome. If you don't think so, get your butt over here so I can kick it.

Now, it might be good planning on my part, or perhaps just pure happenstance,* but today's song is another featuring the "vocal stylings" of Justin Hayward, this time as front man for the Moody Blues. This is from their 1981 album Long Distance Voyager, which very successfully brought them from the '60s/70s world of "prog rock" and into the 1980s - a transition many bands could not make.

This song also made me a Moody Blues fan for life, so you're on notice now: you'd better like it, or you're in for a world of hurt.

Just saying.

I don't care if the audio/video quality stinks, watch and listen anyway. Skip ahead to 0:58 if you want to miss the announcer getting the name of the album wrong.

That right there is musical genius. Greatest. Band. Ever. I mean it.

Don't make me thrash you, because I will.

Oh, yes, I most certainly will.


* It was good planning.

Don't Laugh

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I know what you're thinking. I do. "A musical version of War of the Worlds? Are you insane?" Well, that's the 70s for you. 1978, to be specific.

I have to admit, it does sound crazy... until you listen to it.

After you've had a look at and a listen to the Moody Blues' own Justin Hayward singing the achingly lovely song "Forever Autumn" in this excerpt from a 2006 live performance of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds, you will be convinced that this was how H.G. Wells would have wanted his story to be told.

If you dare try to tell me I'm wrong about it, you'll need an appointment with your dentist to fix the consequences.

This is art, dammit.

You think I'm kidding?

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You want some more music? Since yesterday's selection was from the '60s, check out this Emerson,* Lake and Palmer concert video from 1974 — and after admiring, yes, admiring the virtuosity, you can thank me.

If you don't agree with me that this is one of the finest ballads ever written, I'll be inclined to beat you with my cane.

I'm serious, really really serious.


* No relation. Not that it would matter if he was. He is (and they are) nevertheless awesome, and if you disagree with me on this, you will not enjoy the consequences, I guarantee you.

† For even more virtuosity, check out the studio version of this song; Keith Emerson's keyboard solo at the end was entirely improvised, done in one take, and recorded without his knowledge.

Tell me no lies.

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Tell me this isn't one of the three or four most beautiful songs ever written.

I swear, if you try telling me to my face that it isn't, I will get up out of this chair and punch you in your filthy lying mouth, even if it means I fall flat on my face and break a variety of my own bones because in my haste to deal out justice I neglected to grab my cane.

Go ahead. I dare you.

Yeesh. And some people say I have no aesthetic sense.

Tolerance

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It's been over a year since the lads arrived, and in that time Mycah has hissed and growled more than in the entirety of her life prior to the aforementioned arrival.

She is, however, becoming more tolerant of their presence, though only in narrowly defined circumstances.

The lads have always, from Day 1, wanted to be friendly with her. Kismet, however, is the one who has hit on the right formula. When I am near at hand, and if they feel there is an imminent prospect of food or treat delivery, Mycah will tolerate Kismet grooming her:

It's completely predictable.

What I have not been able to capture on video, due to the unpredictable nature thereof, is Packet's ill-considered attempts to exhibit friendliness towards Mycah. He just wants to play!, but unfortunately Mycah considers his attempts to play! as an attack... due in no small part to his preferred method of play!ing, which consists of him sneaking up behind her and pouncing.

Yowling and hissing follow immediately thereafter.

Evilspeak

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Years ago, immediately after I'd graduated from high school, I was an extra in an eminently forgettable movie. It was being filmed in my hometown, and they needed people who knew how to march and wear uniforms, so they approached our JROTC department and asked for volunteers.

Having nothing better to do, I and some of my fellow cadets signed on. It was interesting to see the "behind the scenes" working of a movie location shoot, and we all pocketed a few dollars for mostly sitting around and waiting.

But no, I never saw the movie; I heard it was really truly awful. I have no idea if I ever got any screen time.

Oh, you want to know the name of the movie? "Evilspeak."


Forward to today. The excruciatingly tedious Senator Harry Reid has described vocal town hall protesters as "evil-mongers."

Pelosi earlier this week called protesters un-American.

Not to point out the obvious, but it takes one to know one.

I used to subscribe to the notion that one should never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity. Now, I'm not so sure. I sense malice galore — malice towards and hatred of the principles on which this nation was built, the fundamentals which made this country what Lincoln rightly and presciently described as the "last best hope of earth."

Just how morally bankrupt does one have to be to suggest that people talking — or shouting, even — at their elected representatives is evil or un-American? Particularly when the one making the suggestion is one of those public servants?

Reid and Pelosi need to be reminded that they work for the people. (Given recent poll numbers, though, I suspect Reid won't be representing Nevada much longer.) They are employees, not our rulers. And they seem to have a moral blind spot you could drive a Peterbilt truck through.

Speaking up to your representatives is neither evil nor un-American.

Sending thugs to silence dissenting opinions is evil and un-American.

Forcing people into a medical care rationing system they neither need nor want is evil.

Denying people the opportunity to seek medical care because "it isn't worth it" is evil.

Lying about the content and effect of bills that you are trying to enact into law — that's evil and un-American.

Chattel slavery — the worst evil of the 19th century.

Statism — the worst evil of the 20th century.

And yet what Reid, Pelosi and Obama and their cohorts continue to press for is nothing less than the enslavement of the entirety of the population to the will and the whim of the State. The mere fact that this is now the 21st century changes the equation not one whit.

They call it "reform," an effort at equality, and a way to address social ills, but the equality one has under the yoke of the State is still slavery. And that is evil.

As, I believe, are its primary advocates — nothing more, nothing less. I ascribe no positive motives to any of them. Mere stupidity can explain some peoples' willingness to "sign on" to the program, but it very definitely cannot explain the depth and breadth of what the leaders of that movement are attempting to do to our health care system, to our economy, and to our liberty.

It is evil, and un-American.


Update: Please, flag me. I insist.

Proper response

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The REAL story

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South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, as everyone now knows, is back at home and work, after a mysterious disappearance of several days' duration. He claims to have had an affair.

I have an alternate theory.

Politicians can be outed as being gay, they can be busted on video doing drugs, they can be nailed in bribery scandals, they can even be caught having extramarital affairs... and yet all of these are politically survivable.*

But for a politician of any stripe with presidential aspirations, there's one thing that would be the kiss of death, and it would explain why he would claim to have had an affair:

Alien abduction.

Bear with me here. Think about it... what do we know about aliens?

1) They prefer kidnapping people from the South; given the incidence of abductions, their eventual nabbing of a sitting governor rather than a one-tooth-havin' moonshiner is a statistical certainty.

2) The governor flew in from Argentina. Aliens are notoriously inconsiderate as to where they drop off their abductees, so it's not entirely unanticipated that they might drop off the Governor somewhere away from home. He should count himself lucky that they dropped him in the Western hemisphere.

3) The most commonly reported aliens are known as "greys." Where better for them to pick up a human than the birthplace of the Confederacy, South Carolina? Confederate uniforms were — you guessed it — grey.

It makes perfect sense.

Any politician claiming to have been abducted by aliens can kiss his presidential hopes, and perhaps his entire career, goodbye. Compared to that, marital infidelity can be thought of as an astute political move.


* Especially if you're a Democrat — the press has your back.
† Except for Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul.

[This post brought to you by the Andrew Sullivan School of Journalism. Prove me wrong.]

Spin around, Ninjas!

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What can possibly explain the music videos of the '80s?

Drugs. Had to have been lots of drugs.


Wait, no... that was the "literal version" of Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart — I've been LOLing over it since I saw it last week.

It's a good song, maybe even a great song, but forever mockable for its hyper-clichéd video. Which also, coincidentally, can be explained by drugs.


And for my brother, here's the literal version of Tears For Fears' Head Over Heels. Awesome.

Quick Movie Review

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Star Trek
Directed by J. J. Abrams, starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, and Simon Pegg

Quick review: Don't blink, or you'll miss the part where Kirk graduates from the academy, is commissioned an Ensign, is promoted up through the ranks while demonstrating his leadership skills and character, until through great talent and merit he finally achieves the exalted rank of Captain and earns command of the newest, finest ship in Star Fleet.

I blinked.

4 stars


Actually, if you ignore the unusual path Kirk took to the command chair, it wasn't horrible.

A long-standing complaint I have with modern CGI effects is true in this film: they try to put way too much into each frame of film, moving way too fast, such that it can be difficult to tell just what is happening in the effects shots.

The casting, by the way, was superb. I didn't like every little bit the director/writers had them do or say, but on the whole the cast performed admirably.

Update: Lileks reviews it well.

Quick Book Review

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The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein, 1966.

Quick review: I lately find myself wishing for an advantageous locale, vis-a-vis Earth's gravity well.

5 stars.


Spurred by references to Simon Jester that popped up around the recent Tea Parties, I took it upon myself to dig out my ancient copy of Heinlein's classic story of libertarian revolution.

Having failed to find it — I think it made its way to the used bookstore last year, along with several hundred other volumes — I acquired a fresh copy, and dug in.

It had easily been 20 years since I last read it, and yet much of the book has stuck with me over the years. Re-reading it was like greeting an old friend.

When I'd finished, I realized how much my own political views have been shaped by (or at least have developed into being a close match for) the views expressed by Heinlein's characters.

TANSTAAFL, baby.

Come to think of it, I agree with a greater-than-zero bit of the political philosophy Heinlein expounded in Starship Troopers, too. Pity the movie sucked like a fusion-powered Electrolux.

Here's to you, Mr. Jefferson

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Droolworthy

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The new PC is set up. It screams.

I've managed to get the important apps installed and most of my data transferred from the old machine, though I'm still tweaking a lot of settings to get it to behave the way I prefer. Which reminds me just how much I hate Windows. With a fierce burning passion.

The cabling is slightly less of a mess than it was before, though nowhere as neat as I would have liked. There has to be a better way to wire a home office, there just has to be.

Maybe I should invent something.


While setting up the machine, a certain pain-in-the-butt cat decided he wanted to help... if you define "help" as broadly as possible... up to and including flopping on the keyboard.

Teasing Kismet with the mouse pointer probably wasn't too nice of me, but that's what he gets if he's going to park his butt on my keyboard.



Board the Friday Ark at The Modulator.

Carnival of the Cats #263 will be hosted by Kashim, Othello and Salome.

For your everyday cat needs, visit the Cat Blogosphere.

I may be a geek, but I've never been a comic book geek, either as a kid, or since.

Once, though, while in the throes of boredom between trips up to the DMZ during my service in Korea, I borrowed a friend's copy of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. I'd never heard the expression "graphic novel" before; I thought it was just a bigger-than-usual comic book, but I was quickly corrected, and was convinced to give it a look. I was impressed. This was no mere kid's comic book, and it helped set the tone for the Batman film which followed not too long after.

I really was impressed, but not enough to get me into the genre as a whole.

Fast-forward to the present. It's been 20 years, and exactly one other graphic novel has joined the ranks of the hundreds of books I have owned and read: Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons.

I was drawn to Watchmen by its inclusion on someone's list of 100 great works of English literature; I saw it referred to, looked it up, and had my curiosity piqued enough to buy a copy. There's no way I can describe it and do it justice, except to say I was far more impressed than I remember being by The Dark Knight Returns.

And now, 14 years after the book was published, there's a Watchmen film, which opens today. I'm working, of course, so I won't be able to go see it until Monday — but see it I will. I don't get out to see movies all too often (the last was the eminently regrettable Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) but sometimes something comes along that makes the sheer physical hassle worthwhile.

I hope the film does the book justice.

Marine One, Obama Zero

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I'd tell you to go over and try your hand at the caption contest at Hot Air, but as far as I'm concerned, you can't beat this: Heh.

Big Hollywood

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Despite what you may have thought, Movies Are Your Best Entertainment Value. Just ask Iowahawk, writing at Big Hollywood.

I haven't seen any numbers, but I'm willing to wager that the biggest hits of 2008 were decidedly not anti-American/anti-military, while the biggest flops were.


OK, I did a bit of googling. "Space Chimps" brought in about three times the box office that "Stop-Loss" pulled. Heh.

Quote of the Day

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Victor Davis Hanson:

It was not surprising, but entirely predictable that a nation that sixty years ago produced napalm, flamethrowers — and eventually A-bombs — to combat thousands of suicidal warriors would retain the organization and willpower to incinerate a few hundred suicide bombers and their enclaves of support.

From his book Ripples of Battle: How Wars of the Past Still Determine How We Fight, How We Live, and How We Think.



It's no surprise to those who know me that I prefer reading to writing, and for the past week I've been buried in VDH's 2003 book. Going into depth, not so much on the battles themselves but rather their aftereffects, Hanson looks at the battles of Okinawa (1945), Shiloh (1862) and Delium (424 B.C.) and explains how each has had repercussions that affect our society even today.

Whether you're a student of History or not (and really, who wouldn't want to understand the past?) this book gets my highest recommendation.

In case you needed to know...

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Shock and boo yah!

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Poor career choice: IED Emplacement Team.

Friday Virtuosity

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I wish the audio/video quality was a bit better, but that's the hazard of a live performance.

The greatest guitar player alive, and possibly ever, Eric Johnson, performing Cliffs of Dover.

I work on a keyboard for a living, and I can't imagine making my fingers move the way his do on that guitar.

IMPORTANT - Virus Warning

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ATTENTION:

If you get an e-mail titled "Nude Photos of Sarah Palin" in the subject line, do not open it. It might contain a virus.

If you get an e-mail titled, "Nude Photos of Hillary Clinton" in the subject line, do not open it. It might contain nude photos of Hillary Clinton.

Quick Movie Review

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Hot Fuzz
(Directed by Edgar Wright, starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Timothy Dalton — rated R for language and graphic violence.)

Quick review: Small-town life is so much better without all the murders... but nowhere near as entertaining.

4½ stars


This is a fun one; I'm glad I put it in my Netflix queue.

Most Americans who know of Simon Pegg only know him from Shaun of the Dead, another gruesomely funny movie, but those of us who occasionally see BBC America's "Britcoms" will also remember him from the hilarious (and tragically short-lived) series "Big Train", as well as a variety of smaller roles.

He and the rest of the cast very ably inject comedy into what could have been played straight as a crime thriller. Very well done.

Meaningless trivia

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The #1 song on the Billboard charts on the day I was born: Soldier Boy. Interesting. I was in the Army, as a matter of fact, though hardly a boy at the time.

The week my brother was born: It's My Party. Heh.

When my sister was born: Wild Thing. No comment.

Not that there's anything at all meaningful in any of those, of course.... But let's see who else comes to mind.

Sarah Palin: I Want To Hold Your Hand.

Indeed.

Barack Obama: Tossin' and Turnin'.

I bet he is.

Red state sense

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Jackie and Dunlap discuss Sarah Palin.

"At the very least he prevented a grateful nation from having to learn anything at all about Tim Pawlenty." That's funny right there. (No offense to Gov. Pawlenty, of course.)

il colpo di grazia

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Nothing, absolutely nothing, must be allowed to stand in the way of Hopeiness and Changeitude™.*

Hence the Obama campaign's mob-like efforts to squelch this ad; it's got the potential to be the political kiss of death, and they know it.

If they want this to remain unseen, they'll have to do better than threaten.

Tell your friends.

More, from Mike Hendrix, on why Ayers matters.


* Or is that Changeiness and Hopeitude?

Vets for Freedom

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Obama hasn't taken a stand on the Surge; what he's really been doing is called posturing.

Those who were there might have something to say about that.

Via Hot Air.

3 a.m.

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Today's theme: campaign ads.

More to come.

Enjoy them while I'm shampooing the carpet.

Tactics

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Taliban suicide troops attack US forces in Afghanistan, with predictable results.

Perhaps they should have watched a training video or two:

Wrasslin'

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More video of the lads.

They wrestle a lot, almost always as an effort by each to groom the other.

Maybe that's why Kismet grooms my head at night when I'm in bed — I don't fight back.


An award — this makes it two Fridays in a row. Clearly, we need to start being nicer to more people more often.

From Skittles the Huntress:

Aww... 't'weren't nuthin'.


Friday. Ark. Be there.

You've got to love the Bad Kitty Cats Festival of Chaos, this week at Mind of Mog.

Carnival of the Cats will be hosted this week by Samantha Black & Mr. Tigger.

Mighty Hunter, redux

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Yesterday I went to do my grocery shopping. As usual, when leaving the house, I had to go out the front door and open the garage from the outside, because when I go directly out to the garage through the door that opens off the kitchen, Kismet and Packet race each other to go out to the garage, and I'm just not quick enough to get out and close the door before they get out.

When they get out into the garage, it then takes me ten minutes to wrangle them back into the house, before I can then open the garage door, start the truck, and leave. I don't often have that much time to burn.

I ultimately got home and opened the door into the kitchen. As usual, the lads had heard the garage door opener, and were waiting in the kitchen for me to open the door. I did, and they zipped out into the garage, as usual. And as usual, I wondered what the attraction was.

Just a couple of minutes later, while I was putting away the groceries, Kismet came in and showed me what was so interesting in the garage: he'd caught and dispatched a lizard. Fortunately, I'd left my camera downstairs.

At the beginning, you can see he's "on point" — I couldn't see what he was looking at, but I think it was either Mycah or Packet checking out his acquisition.

The ex-lizard had already bought the farm — kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, rung down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible — but Kismet wanted to play more with his new toy.

It seems like he doesn't quite know what to do with it.

Me, I just wanted to get the little corpse away from him before he could take it upstairs and deposit it in my bed.

Eventually I distracted him (thank you, keychain laser) and was able to give the late lamented lizard a quick watery funeral.

I made it through my teen years in the 1970s with only minor leisure suit contamination. If anyone — my Mom, for instance — claims to have photographic proof, there will be harsh consequences... unless the photos and negatives are destroyed forthwith. Seriously. I don't need to re-live that particular powder blue nightmare.

Pretty much says it all. The "subsidiary of Homoco" is a nice touch.

Limited time offer

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What do you do if you're Hollywood creative genius Joss Whedon — the man behind Firefly — and there's a writers strike on?

You take your skills to the web, naturally.

Of course, the WGA strike is over... but it may have been worth it, since as a byproduct we now have (drumroll, please...)

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is... well, it's different. And entertaining, with actual recognizeable actors in it, and far, far better production values than any high school doofus with a webcam publishing to YouTube. It stars Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible, Nathan Filion as Captain Hammer, and Felicia Day as Penny the love interest.

It's available to view — free! — in three 15-minute installments... but only through midnight Sunday. (Later, it will be available on iTunes.)

It's a bit of mostly-light-hearted fun, and highly recommended. Catch it while you can.

Joke of the day

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Q: What's black and brown and looks good on a hippie?

A: A rottweiler.

(Brought to mind by this: 5 "Rainbows" arrested in clash with officers.)

On Monday I received a package from Amazon which contained pure gold... smothered in beef fat:

Written by Steve Graham of Hog on Ice (one of my all-time and ongoing favorite blogs) this hilarious paean to food that's bad for you but so very, very good deserves a place in any man's library.

Any man who's not a wuss, that is. If tofu is your favorite protein and if the price of arugula concerns you, you should probably put the book down and see your doctor about getting testosterone shots before reading, lest your head explode.

This is a hugely expanded, revised and refined version of Steve's same-titled self-published book from a few years ago. If you happen to have that older version, get this one; you won't regret it.

I had palpitations just reading it, before I even set foot in the kitchen.


I had a bit of a dilemma. After screaming through the first 100 pages in a day and a half — it's hard to put down — I was inspired to spend some time in the kitchen. So yesterday I cooked up four pounds of breakfast sausage to use in recipes. When it was all cooked, even after the cup-and-a-half of delicious, wonderful, marvelous sausage grease was rendered out, I still had about half a pound more sausage than could fit into the storage container for refrigeration.

Which raised the question, should I have kept the grease mixed with the remaining sausage, or should I just have had a mug of it on the side as a chaser?

As a followup, I later cooked up three pounds of bacon, also to use in other recipes. Mmmm... bacon grease. I'm sure I'll find a use for it all.

It's a very good thing that the nurse I'm dating has Emergency Room experience.

Buy the book. You'll laugh at the terrific writing, and you might learn a thing or two about real food.

Quote of the Day

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In FrankJ's world, Supreme Court Justice Antonin "Tony the Bull" Scalia renders a slightly more forceful opinion in D.C v Heller:

The issue of incorporation was not brought before the Court, but our next step will be to grab our guns, form a posse, and head to Chicago. The citizens are disarmed, so they will be easy pickings and their stereos will become mine. See the barrel of my gun. I shall kill Mayor Daley and place his head upon a pike in the town square as an example to others. Usually the execution of laws falls on the Executive Branch, but I have the summer off and it sounds like fun.

Yes, yes, yes

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Finally, a Vision for America I can believe in.

Mycah vs. Mycah

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I've always thought Mycah was a pretty cute girl.

Via my referrer logs, I see there's another Mycah out there... with two M's in "Emmerson," as opposed to the just one in use hereabouts.

There must be something about the name "Mycah."

I see entirely too much late-night TV. "Too much" not because what I watch is bad — hello? Red Eye, anyone? — but rather due to the commercials. Whether they're actually full-blown insipid, or just have a slight something that annoys, they all get under my skin.

Some of the ones seen this week:

Dr. Frank's — What is it about playing tennis that makes this spray the ne plus ultra of successful pain relief? And then there's the Joint Pain Relief Spray for dogs and cats. Do the dogs and cats play tennis? And is there any point to walking the dog if you have to put it in a stroller?

High Plains Bison — Look, I'm sure this "bison" of which they speak is tasty and all... but is it any better than buffalo?

Free Credit Report dot com — Does anyone believe that guy has a "posse," or that might he ever, even theoretically, be found "lookin' fly" and/or "rollin' phat"? Should he not, in fact, be beaten on sight?

Cancer Treatment Centers of America — Look, I hope they're a good outfit, I really do... but they have been using the same one woman in their ads for at least a year. Her story is compelling, yes, but is she their only success story?

Earthshare — "Help restore balance to the world." Um, I'll concentrate on restoring my own balance thankyouverymuch.

Viagra — Note to the ad execs responsible for this latest campaign: You bastards. There were maybe three Elvis songs that I liked, and you had to go and ruin one of them. For the last 25 years I haven't been able to listen to Pachelbel's Canon in D without thinking of GE soft white light bulbs, and now this. Die, you scum.

These are why I love my DVR's fast-forward button.

Quick Movie Review

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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
(Directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Karen Allen, Cate Blanchett)

Quick review: Commies. I hate those guys.

Quick *spoiler* review: E.T., phone Jones. (click and drag to highlight.)

3½ stars


Again I have ventured forth to the theater, and again, I enjoyed getting out. I give this one three and a half out of five stars.

(I'd rate Raiders as a 5, Temple of Doom at 2.5, and Last Crusade as 4, maybe 4.5.)

Additional:

The premise of the film (the "Crystal Skull" part, not the "nearing-retirement Indy" part) was pretty unusual, but if you're willing to dismiss the silliness and just enjoy it as popcorn fodder, you won't be disappointed with how it goes, though I thought the end and epilogue were a bit weak and/or contrived.

Karen Allen's return serves to remind us that Indy's other romantic interests pale in comparison to Marion Ravenwood.

Shia LaBeouf didn't completely suck. Color me moderately surprised.

20 years from now, Indiana Jones and the Adventure of the Golden Bedpan would probably get me out to the theater.

Packet the TV connoisseur

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Packet has become a TV junkie. Cat Sitter is his favorite DVD so far.

Rodents and birds are not the only things he likes to watch. He seems to enjoy Good Eats as much as I do, and he's a regular Red Eye viewer. He's a big fan of ombudsman Andy Levy.

He's probably hoping to get an autographed picture of Andy's cats, Pixel and Stormy.


Start your weekend at The Modulator's Friday Ark.

The Carnival of the Cats this week is hosted at the M-cats Club.

And as always, for your every day cat needs, a visit to the Cat Blogosphere is recommended.

Hi!

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Kismet says a very quick hello.

I really need to get a longer vid of him at his most talkative, but when the camera comes out, he goes quiet. Uncooperative little cuss.


Check out the neat goodies that are being raffled off at Cat Friends Helping Friends.

Don't miss the Friday Ark at The Modulator.

The Carnival of the Cats this week is hosted by our friends at Artsy Catsy.

And as always, for your every day cat needs, a visit to the Cat Blogosphere is recommended.

Quick Movie Review

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Urgh: A Music War (1981)
(Directed by Derek Burbidge)

Some "music war." If only there had been some casualties. I was hoping for an airstrike.

"Codswallop" might be too polite a term for this collection of mostly awful tripe.

½ star


The "film" consists of live New Wave and Punk performances by various — and I use this term in its broadest possible sense — "artists."

This isn't film, it's the early-80s equivalent of a modern concert-goer with a cell-phone video camera posting a low-res video to YouTube.

You have a better chance of making a good film if a random person in the street bumps into you, says "here, hold this camera," and proceeds to do a song and dance number. In fact, a much better chance.

The first number, The Police performing "Driven to Tears," is pretty good. It goes pretty steadily downhill from there, with one or two bumps, until the two closing numbers, "Roxanne" and "So Lonely," also by The Police.

The half-star rating is solely for the presence of The Police... but even they aren't good enough to salvage this train wreck and pull the rating higher.

Quick Movie Review

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Iron Man
(Directed by Jon Favreau, starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard)

Wait... terrorists and their enablers, and not the US military, are the bad guys? I can't imagine why anyone would like this.

(Hollywood lefties, are you taking notes?)

4½ stars


So, yesterday I did something I haven't been able to do in over a year: I went and sat in a theater to watch a movie.

It's been a long time since I've seen a movie that I wished hadn't ended so soon. I could have sat through two more hours.

If all of Downey's past problems had happened for the sole purpose of bringing him to the point of making this movie, then they were worth it. He's absolutely superb in the role.

Paltrow is gorgeous, in a smokin' hot librarian sort of way.

Be sure to sit all the way through the credits.

I'm glad I went, and though there are few things as pathetic as going to the movies alone, I'll continue doing so, as long as there's decent fare... which, given the tidal wave of sheer crap coming out of the movie studios these days, it might be another two years before I'm willing to sit in a theater again. I hope not, though — it's good to get out of the house.

Go Fight Win

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While covering the news last night on FNC's Red Eye (you are DVRing it nightly, are you not?) Fox Business Network reporter Tracy Byrnes defended cheerleading as a "sport."

Utter nonsense.

Cheerleading, Ice Dancing, and Synchronized Swimming may all be competitive endeavours requiring athletic ability, but they aren't sports.

Here are two simple rules of thumb by which you can tell if the activity in which you are engaged is a sport, when victory is determined by your score:

  • If a score is awarded based on judges' arbitrary opinion of the quality of your performance, it's not a sport.
  • If the score is determined solely by the completion of a specific task, it is a sport.

Discuss.

Mancats

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Yes, yes, I know — lots of cat stuff lately. So sue me. If I were having health problems (apart from the usual rounds of physical therapy and such) I'd be posting about that.

The lads had their first night of freedom last night. Naturally, they used it to best effect by playing the Thundering Herd of Elephants game while I was trying to get to sleep. They eventually settled down around dawn.

When I woke up, Kismet was sleeping at my feet. Very cute.

I'm not going to call them inseparable, but they do enjoy hanging out together.

Mycah still doesn't quite know what to make of these interlopers. When I have had human visitors in the past, she was always pretty skittish at first, and would be "off her feed" for a couple of days. Same thing now — I can't believe I actually have to work at it to get her to eat. She'll get back to normal pretty quickly, I expect.

Day Two

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The lads have been acclimating to the house, and to Mycah's presence... as much as they can, under the door.

They are a pair of serious nose-poker-inners. Here are their first few moments of freedom:

They made a break for it today — when I went in to feed them, they bolted through the open door. Mycah was right behind me, though, and the boys were startled enough to dash across the hall into the bathroom rather than down the hall and to the rest of the house.

In my somewhat debilitated physical condition, I was unable to wrangle them into their bedroom. Fortunately, they are young and as yet not jaded by shiny things, so the laser spot was successfully employed to lure them back into their room.

I think I have names for them. A few have been floating through my head, some relating to my chosen profession, but they aren't all geeky... unless you count my having been a Korean linguist as geeky.

OK, bad example. Linguists are very nearly the biggest geeks in the Army.

A couple more days. In the meantime, they're being referred to as "buddy" and "fluffy boy." They really are quite a pair.

Earth Day facts

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Number four:

80% of all life on earth is found under the ocean surface. Of that total, 63% can be made tasty with lemon and butter.

Go read the rest, at IMAO.

Film legend and past NRA president Charlton Heston has died.

Though he was best known for his iconic roles in such films as Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments and Planet of the Apes, the lesser-known El Cid, in which he plays the part of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar during the Reconquista, has always vied for the honor of being my favorite Heston film.

I can't imagine Hollywood these days making an epic-scale movie about a hero fighting the Muslims. Pity. If you haven't seen El Cid, rent it. Heston is great, and Sophia Loren provides some tasty eye-candy.

One day back in the early '80s, while I was home on a break from college, our family got dressed up "spiffy casual" and drove down to L.A. to see a show. We'd done so many times previously, and this particular time we were off to see "Nicholas Nickleby."

I remember nothing about the play itself... but I remember that the Hestons were sitting in front of us, and I remember that Mr. Heston was very gracious to those few people who dared to approach him.

He was a legend, while pretty much all we have these days are over-hyped "stars." They don't make many like Heston any more.

Skritch magnet

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Mycah is a complete and utter hedonist.

But then, not too many cats could be described as altruistic.

Or many people, for that matter.


A visit to the Modulator's Friday Ark is required. Get thee hence.

On Sunday, it's the Carnival of the Cats — this week at Nikita's Place.

And for your recommended daily allowance of Cat, there's the Cat Blogosphere.

Mycah Speaks

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Recently, after going in with family members to get my niece a camera for her birthday, I decided it was time for me to upgrade to a new digital camera. I've had the old one for about eight years, and it was getting to be quite a bit behind the times. I hadn't really done anything for myself in quite a while, and with the amazing prices these days, it was hard to say no.

I shopped around, and decided on a Kodak. It's far more powerful a camera than the old one, at about one third the price I paid in 2000.

What I wasn't really looking for, but was pleased to find, was that the camera has the capability to capture video. Sure, it's limited to the available memory, but I'm not ever going to try to be a Spielberg.

Nevertheless, here's my first shot at making Mycah a star.

I suppose I'm going to have to get some video editing software somewhere.


Since it's Friday, you know you have to go visit the Modulator's Friday Ark.

The Carnival of the Cats is hosted this week at Artsy Catsy.

No. . . Never. . .

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Here's a bit of a weekend palate cleanser, from a recent favorite of mine, Matthew Ebel: video of a live performance of Tennessee Never Cried, off the excellent album Beer & Coffee.

Mandles

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Heh.

I'll take "Charcoal."

(via Allahpundit at Hot Air)

I think I've been watching too much cable TV news. Everything is starting to look like this to me:


Breaking News: Series Of Concentric Circles Emanating From Glowing Red Dot

Holiday Irritant

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The best part of tomorrow being Valentine's Day? Knowing that the most extraordinarily insipid TV ads ever created will be going away for a year.

Ticking me off this year, as every year: Vermont Teddy Bears, PajamaGrams.

I'm such a grouch.

Dig This

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Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory... lasts forever.

Parts one and three of that quote (source) are pretty much true.

How about part two?

Chicks: I'm totally available. Ignore the thinning thin hair. Unless you think it's the sign of an exceptionally active brain, in which case, by all means, pay attention.

Just don't expect me to take you dancing quite yet.

Friday night has, for the last several years, been "Monk" night for my DVR. Great show.

Recently, however, I ran into a show that seems (by visuals and the script) to be based in my hometown, Santa Barbara: Psych, on the USA network, immediately following Monk.

I'd seen promos for the show while watching recorded episodes of Monk, but one night during my recent convalescence, I caught Monk live, and left the TV tuned to USA, and Psych began. I was initially uninterested, until the supposed locale* caught my attention. I watched.

Wow. This may be one of the most entertaining shows I've seen in a long time. It's very cleverly written, with rapid-fire dialogue, interesting story lines and a cast of engaging characters led by stars James Roday and Dulé Hill. Plus, it is very funny.

The general story line: a novice sleuth (Roday) is hired by the police after he cons them into thinking he has psychic powers that help solve crimes. With the assistance of his reluctant best friend (Hill) the duo solve crimes.

Roday shines in this series as the faux-psychic Shawn Spencer. Nothing seems too outlandish for him, and the witty dialogue uses his considerable talent to full effect. Hill excels as the rather-more-serious (and usually much smarter) sidekick Burton "Gus" Guster. The two are inseparable, sharing virtually every scene, and playing off of each other to great effect.

If you enjoy a neat little mystery, and (like me) are a sucker for strong writing with a heavy dose of quirky humor, I strongly recommend that you record and/or watch Psych on USA Network. it should be on Friday nights everywhere, but check your local listings just in case.

(Plus, you can watch full episodes at the USA website.)

* Though set in Santa Barbara, with plenty of stock footage and set dressing, the show is actualy filmed in British Columbia.

Yeah, Me Too

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It's easy in recent years to poke a bit of fun at U2's lead singer Bono as being a bit full of himself. Heck, I've done it myself.

But then today I watched Rattle and Hum which I'd DVRed over the weekend. Say what you want, but those guys were probably the best band of the mid to late 80's. They could blow the roof off any venue, and I'd forgotten just how good they really were.

If you don't believe me, try the live version of Sunday Bloody Sunday on for size. Powerful.

Quick Movie Review

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300
(Directed by Zack Snyder, starring Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham and Dominic West)

Official tagline: Prepare for glory!

Better tagline: Putting the 'graphic' in 'graphic novel.'

4 Stars

Masticate With Extreme Prejudice

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On my return home from the hospital Thursday, a box from Amazon.com was waiting for me. Inside: Steve Graham's latest literary endeavor, Keep Chewing Till It Stops Kicking.

Over the next few days, when I wasn't busy sleeping off the effects of my medical misadventures, I was reading... reading, and laughing.

This is a terrific book. A translation of the cave-wall diary of caveman "Hal," it details many aspects of his daily life and the society of five million years ago, give or take a week.

Hal tells of the problems faced by his contemporaries:

The main problem with early spearheads was, we still hadn't discovered the fully detached stick.We had nothing to attach the spearhead to, so instead of a spearhead, it was more like... a head. If you wanted to kill a mammoth, you had to run up to him, hold the spearhead against him, and push. And while you were doing that, he would usually wrap his trunk around one of your ankles and use you as a flyswatter.
He also offers some wisdom which could only have been gained through experience:
Pretty much the only way to survive a velociraptor attack is to not be the slowest person in the area.
Hard to argue with that.

With chapters such as "Clothing: Sometimes Back Hair Just Isn't Enough" or "Medicine: Trepanning And Ritual Mutilation For Dummies" there is going to be something everyone can relate to.

No, I have no personal reason for references to back hair and medical care. No reason at all.

For Steve's sake, I hope the book does very well. I also hope the Geico advertising people have either a sense of humor or a completely gecko-centric view of copyright infringement.

My only criticism would be that the book seems a bit short — not unusual for humor. This is the sort of thing that you want to make last... but at the same time, you don't want to put it down. Maybe I just read too quickly.

Keep Chewing Till It Stops Kicking gets my full endorsement.

Visit Steve's websites, Hog on Ice and SteveHGraham.com.

Easy Pickings

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It happens to be "Kid's Week" on Jeopardy. A bunch of snot-nosed juveniles competing for cash.

I'm pretty sure I could take any of them.

It might be easier to let them finish and then mug the winner.

A modicum of sanity in Oregon, where charges of felonious butt-swatting against two 13-year-old boys have been dropped. I don't care who you are, butt-swatting when a 13-year-old should in no way mark you as a sex offender for life. Indeed, I can't think of too many things a 13-year-old can do that ought to label them for life. Are you the same person now that you were when you were 13?


Steve H. prognosticates. He may be on to something there. Me, I think we're looking at a major redefinition of the term "boob-tube."


No, Gary, it's not just you.


Garofalo to join cast of "24." Fonzie to jump shark.


Louisiana Democrats attack Bobby Jindal's religion. (Isn't Louisiana a heavily Catholic state?) They once tried a whisper campaign about his ethnicity, so this really comes as no surprise. That they have to take his words out of context is not only unsurprising, it's pretty much the standard modus operandi for Democrats these days.


John Edwards: not so bright. Less bright: the people who ever voted for him for anything.


Breaking and entering? Illegal. Squatting? Not so much.


LOL, cat.

Letdown

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Last night I spent some time watching the History International channel, a program called The Imperial Japanese Navy: Kaigun, which covered the IJN from it's inception during the Meiji Restoration up until the present day. An interesting program, but ultimately disappointing.

So basically, I spent two hours hearing things I already knew from other sources. Two hours of my life that I won't get back. Two hours during which I could have been watching DVRed episodes of Cash in the Attic or How It's Made, or possibly even New Yankee Workshop. But no, I watched something redundantly educational.

Worst of all: two whole hours of documentary, and not one single solitary reference to Godzilla.

You'd think a 400-foot tall lizard would at least rate a mention.

I sense a coverup.

A Very Good Listen

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My musical tastes are pretty eclectic, but I like to think that I have a pretty high standard for what counts as worthwhile. The unintended side effect of that is that there are not a lot of musicians I'm willing to listen to over the long term, and even fewer to whom I'll pay good money to get a CD.

I've recently found (thanks, in a roundabout way, to Laurence) another CD to add to my collection:

Matthew Ebel, Beer & Coffee.

Yes, that's a link to a place you can buy it. No, it's not Amazon. No, I don't get a referral fee. This post is a purely unsolicited and uncompensated endorsement.

Try a representative sample or two from his website:

"Drive Away" and "Tennessee Never Cried (Live)" — good stuff.

No, great stuff.

Personally, I think Ebel sounds like Billy Joel might have, had he grown up somewhere other than New York... and had more soul.

Give him a listen, then buy the CD.

Magnificent

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Most of us go through our lives doing whatever it is we do, without being particularly good at those things. Mere competence at the things people are allegedly paid to do for a living, for instance, is sometimes so rare it can surprise us when we encounter it.

It is the rare person who is exceptionally good at what they do. I'm a pretty good network engineer, but by no means am I the best — not even close. I am pretty good at some of the things I do for my own enjoyment, though.

But to be phenomenally good at anything — be it one's vocation or one's hobby — is so rare as to provoke comment.

I don't know how, but Ith at Absinthe & Cookies found a cellphone salesman who is phenomenally good at his hobby. So good that overnight he's become a TV star in Britain, and is likely to become famous around the world.

Ith calls Paul Potts "amazing." I think she vastly understates the case.

Proper Holiday Merrymaking

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Jack M., guest-posting at Ace of Spades, presents his list of ways one can celebrate the Fifth-o of May-o.

8) Finally, I wrap up the day's fun by going to the most ritzy French restaurant in town and saying "You lost to...Mexico. Mexico." Then I just laugh and laugh and laugh.

Sounds like a great deal of fun to me.

Ouch

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Having noticed a rapid and serious decline in my ability to walk since being put on the Prednisone tapering-off plan, I called the doctor last week, and was "rewarded" by having my dosage set to 60mg/day, which I began on Saturday. There seems to have been a bit of improvement — I am walking a bit better already.

I'm still waiting for a second MRI appointment.

And today I had my worst fall so far. It was not the usual "legs giving out under me" fall, though, where I crumple vertically and end up on my hands and knees. This was the full "toppling like a redwood tree" kind of fall; I went over backwards and ended up flat on my back.

I think I might have dented something. Something other than my bedroom floor, I mean. I'm pretty sure I hurt something in this fall. I'm just thankful it didn't happen while I was on the stairs.

Up to this point, I haven't really had any back pain associated with my condition; at most, there were some aches as the muscles in my back worked harder to compensate for the balance problems I've had.

Right now, though, my back feels like Barry Bonds took a swing at it — and connected, right below the shoulder blades.

Codeine, take me away....
 
 
 
Update: the squirrels are here... and they're pissed. Seems their deal to play Vegas fell through; the Chumash indian casino in Santa Ynez, CA is indeed a weak substitute.

On the plus side, though, they've added Hot Chocolate to their repertoire. Awesome.

Here's a bloke Down Under who put the workshop to good use... by building a Sherman tank.

Granted, it's only 40% scale. But... wow. Nice work. As a lifelong model builder, I bow in the general direction of Australia.

The rest of the videos : Part 2 : Part 3 : Part 4 : Part 5

If I had a lake, I wouldn't mind someday doing a large-scale sailing frigate... but where would I get all the little people to work the sails?

Movie Q&A

Yips (or would that be orgle-orgles?) go to Robert at Llamabutchers for this one.

1. Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times.

The entirety of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

2. Name a movie that you've seen multiple times in the theater.

Each of the Star Wars trilogy. Many times each.

3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie.

Tom Hanks. Seems like a decent likeable guy.

4. Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie.

Sean Penn. I would pay money to not see him, in anything, ever.

5. Name a movie that you can and do quote from.

Three come to mind immediately: The Blues Brothers, Airplane!, and of course Caddyshack.

6. Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. At least, I used to know all the lyrics... it's been a while since I've seen it.

7. Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with.

Man of La Mancha. I don't know it all, and I sing rather less well than Peter O'Toole's voice double did. But it's an absolutely terrific musical.

To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow,
To run where the brave dare not go,
To right the unrightable wrong,
To love pure and chaste from afar,
To try when your arms are too weary,
To reach the unreachable star.

This is my quest, to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far.
To fight for the right, without question or pause.
To be willing to march into Hell for a Heavenly cause.

And I know if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,
When I'm laid to my rest.

And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable star.

I don't know how anyone with a backbone can listen to that song and not get a lump in his throat.

Go ahead, call me quixotic. It is a label I would bear proudly.

8. Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see.

Master & Commander - The Far Side Of The World. Most highly rated.

9. Name a movie that you own.

Many many many, so let's go for obscurity here: Crazy Moon.

10. Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.

After seeing Invincible, I would say Mark Wahlberg meets the criteria for this category.

11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?

Not terribly many. The last was Red Dawn.

I'd like to see drive-ins make a comeback, but let's face it: cars aren't as comfortable as they used to be, and bratty teenagers are noisier and more disruptive now than they ever used to be.

12. Ever made out in a movie?

In a movie? No. At a movie? Well, ya, of course... but not lately.

13. Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven't yet gotten around to it.

Yojimbo. I've seen a lot of Kurosawa's films (own a number on DVD, even) but I've never gotten around to seeing this one.

14. Ever walked out of a movie?

Not that I can remember. It would have to have been a truly awful movie, and I try to steer clear of anything with even a hint of stink.

15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.

The cemetery scene at the end of Saving Private Ryan. It just kills me.

16. Popcorn?

Butter and salt.

17. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)?

Once, maybe twice a year. It's got to be something I'm reasonably sure I'll like, and it has to be the kind of visual spectacle that warrants schlepping to the theater... which, for me, is pretty rare.

18. What's the last movie you saw in the theater?

Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest. That definitely warranted a trip to the theater.

19. What's your favorite/preferred genre of movie?

Science fiction, comedy, mystery.

20. What's the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?

The first movie I remember seeing in a theater was The Sound of Music. I even remember the theater — thirty years later, I saw Independence Day in the same theater in San Jose. It must have been a re-release, though, because I was only three years old when it was first released, and I'm pretty sure I was older than that when I saw it; I remember it too well, and I haven't seen the whole thing again since then.

I believe I saw my very first movie at a drive-in. When I was six years old when the folks bundled us kids into the back of the '67 Ford Galaxie station wagon so they could go see Planet of the Apes. It was another 10 years before I saw the whole movie again... and I remembered a goodly portion of it.

21. What movie do you wish you had never seen?

Star Trek - The Motion Picture. It was utterly awful, though it did have the sole redeeming virtue of enabling the subsequent making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the best of all the Trek movies.

22. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?

Nacho Libre. Went to see it with my sister-in-law, niece and nephew. Though unusual, it turned out to be pretty good family fare.

23. What is the scariest movie you've seen?

Alien. It still completely creeps me out.

24. What is the funniest movie you've seen?

Tied: Return of the Pink Panther, and Team America - World Police.

The former makes me a connoisseur of comedy.

The latter makes me a bad, bad man.

In the Mail

Just received:

I haven't had a chance to crack it open yet, but as soon as I do I'll write it up.

If the whole thing is as good as the previews I've seen (and I expect it certainly will be) I'll enjoy it immensely.

Quote of the Day

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Bono, during the last year's UK Music Hall of Fame induction of Brian Wilson:

I know that Brian believes in angels. I do, too.

But you only have to listen to the string arrangement on "God Only Knows" for fact and proof of angels.

Sometimes human talent reflects something... higher.

Quick Movie Review

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Open Range
(Directed by Kevin Costner, starring Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening)

People looking to criticize Costner's acting or directing will have to find a different movie to justify their criticism. This one is good.

Not that there aren't plenty of bad movies from which to choose.

[By the way, Open Range has one of the best western gunfights ever set to film, and it's playing all this month on AMC. Be sure to see it.]

4½ Stars

Quick Movie Review

Flyboys
(Directed by Tony Bill, starring James Franco, Martin Henderson, Jean Reno)

Predictable but somewhat effective (though predictable) WW1 (totally predictable) drama.

Did I mention "predictable"?

3½ Stars

Quick Movie Review

Flightplan
(Directed by Robert Schwentke, starring Jodie Foster, Sean Bean and Peter Sarsgaard)

The absence of evidence that you are sane is not proof that you're crazy... but it's understandable if people take it that way.

4 Stars

Quick Movie Review

Cast Away
(Directed by Robert Zemeckis, starring Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt)

Lesson learned: never travel without a solar-powered satellite phone in your pocket.

4½ Stars

Theme Song

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In honor of the final event of Saddam's life, I'd like to offer this song.



[Lyrics here.]

I should have worn a necktie to work today. Dang it.

11pm update: good riddance to bad rubbish.

Other commentary:
Outside the Beltway
Confederate Yankee
Captain's Quarters
Hot Air

Quick Movie Review

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Invincible
(Directed by Ericson Core, starring Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear, Elizabeth Banks and Kevin Conway)

Think "Rudy turns pro."

Good football/underdog/inspirational/true-story movie, excellent family fare.

4 Stars

My Faith In Science, Shattered Again

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At Hot Air, Allahpundit notes that science has identified the saddest song ever.

Pfffffffffffft.

That was my respect for science deflating just a bit. Not as much as it's done over this whole "man-made global warming" foofaraw, but a measurable bit, yes.

While a bunch of neurotic wussy europeans may inspire feelings in me, sadness doesn't come close to the top of the list — except when I think of the greatness that once was Western Culture. No, when I hear The Verve* what I feel is more akin to nausea.

If you want a sad song, try Rhett Miller's Come Around.

I'm thinking of adding it to my life's soundtrack album, probably between Green Day's Boulevard of Broken Dreams and the Justin Hayward's Forever Autumn.


* Definitely not to be mistaken for The Verve Pipe, a band I actually like.

† Sorry, Mom, there's a bad word in there.

Quick Movie Review

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Old School
(Directed by Todd Phillips, starring Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn)

The world needed a definitive "old people acting like college students" movie.

This ain't it.

Back to School, on the other hand, is.

Wilson, Ferrell and Vaughn couldn't have carried Rodney Dangerfield's jock.

1½ Stars

Mindless Fun

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How to waste time: flying hamsters. My best score: 717 feet.

Damn you, Robbo.

"The Unit" Rocks

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I've TIVOed CBS's The Unit from Day 1 — Dennis Haysbert is just too cool — though to be honest I can do without the entirety of the wife-driven soap-opera half of the show. But I intend to continue watching, because of scenes like what follows, from last night's episode.

Band of Brothers

Today is St. Crispin's Day.

And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd. . . .

Go see the Greatest Speech Ever, and more, at the Llamabutchers.

I Can Dig It

Via Blackfive, a music video from Australian country singer Beccy Cole.

The song, Poster Girl (Wrong Side of The World), is her answer to those fair-weather fans who didn't like the fact that she supports the Diggers.

Outstanding.

Can we adopt her or something? And send the Dixie Twits to, I dunno, France?

A Stitch

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The truth can hurt.

Right now my ribs ache, having seen the greatest political advertisement ever.

I needed a laugh. I talked to my niece today; we're all still pretty "down" about Bubba's passing.

Object Lesson

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Part 1 of ABC's docudrama The Path to 9/11 airs tonight and, as Tigerhawk points out (h/t: Prof R) due to the Democrats' incessant blathering in every available media outlet about the unfairness of it all, it'll likely have a significantly larger audience than it would have, had the community of Clinton defenders simply pretended the miniseries didn't exist.

No one I know of is claiming that the miniseries is completely accurate, any more than The Longest Day was a 100% completely faithful account of the D-Day landings — but that movie is still a good way to learn about the Normandy invasion.

Perhaps this can be an object lesson for the Left on the difference between "reality" and "reality-based."

Recent Reading

Lately, my nightly reading has been a 6-book series, A Naval History of Great Britain: During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Written and published in the 1820s, the six volumes are a chronological record of every significant (and perhaps not so significant) action and expedition in which the Royal Navy participated. Gleaned by the author, William M. James, from Admiralty records and the after-action reports of the participants, these volumes are as close to "source material" as one could get without visiting the Admiralty's archives oneself.

For anyone interested in the period and the facts that underlay such historical fiction as C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series*, or the Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian (the source material for the film Master and Commander - the Far Side of the World, which I reviewed here), this series of books is invaluable.

The author was British, and was initially motivated to write the histories by what he thought were overblown American press accounts of US naval victories in the War of 1812. Seeking to put the best face on British losses — it was stunning, virtually unthinkable at the time, that ships of the Royal Navy could lose battles to the upstart Americans (but lose them they did) — there is undeniably pro-British spin, but on the whole the books do a good job of telling what happened in a straightforward way.

Sometimes, however, the author's take on matters is hard to ignore... nor would one want to, in passages such as this from Volume 2:

On the 22nd of February [1797], in the evening the French 40-gun frigates Résistance and Vengeance, 22-gun ship-corvette Constance, and lugger Vautour, anchored in Fisgard Bay on the coast of Wales. During the night, they landed 1200 galley-slaves, dressed and accoutered as soldiers, but without any cannon or camp equipage.

The alarm soon spread, and it was not long before a strong body of militia, under the command of Lord Cawdor, assembled near the spot. The Frenchmen, whose intentions were rather predatory than warlike, immediately surrendered, and were marched as prisoners to Haversfordwest. Meanwhile the vessels that had brought them weighed, and soon disappeared from the coast.

What was the object of this silly expedition, no one, not even among the French, seems rightly to have understood.

How often does one get the opportunity to laugh out loud while reading history?

This series of books, six volumes in all, is not always available new, but nevertheless belongs in the collection of anyone interested in naval history.

* Those who enjoyed the Hornblower films might be interested to note that there really was an Indefatigable, and it really was captained by Sir Edward Pellew.

If You Know, You Know

*

Yes, the image updates from time to time.

Quick Movie Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
(Directed by Gore Verbinski, starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley, with Billy Nighy as Davy Jones)

Wow. That's put me right off seafood.

4½ Stars

Uh-huh, Uh-huh

There's something you don't see every day... a pack of squirrels are out on the window ledge here at the office, doing what appears to be a performance of the "All-Rodent KC and the Sunshine Band Tribute Revue."

Right now they're in the middle of "That's The Way I Like It." Their brass section is phenomenal.

 

Now that my broken foot is pretty much healed up, maybe I should consider cutting back on the pain meds.

But not until the squirrels do "Get Down Tonight."

Veteran Campaigner

John Kerry tosses his hat in the ring... again.

Red-Blooded

No, this isn't something new, except perhaps to those few of you who visit here regularly. It's been making the rounds, and it's good enough for another link: Carlos Mencia.

[There are some bleeps, but Potty Language Warning is in effect for the particularly delicate.]

I may have to give Mind of Mencia on Comedy Central a look.

[Shamelessly stolen from via The Jawa Report]

One Good Scratch Deserves Another!

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back near the litterbox...

PAWS 2

Coming sooner than you think.

Another* Mycah the Cat production.


Don't miss the Friday Ark at the Modulator, or the Carnival of the Cats, coming Sunday to For The Junta.

Coming to a Movie Theater Near You


Mycah the Cat presents:

The terrifying motion picture from the terrifying No. 1 best seller.

PAWS

Don't go near the litterbox.



Don't miss the Friday Ark at the Modulator, or the Carnival of the Cats, coming Sunday to Music and Cats.

Quick CD Review

| 1 Comment

Pearl Jam - "Ten"

I suspect this band's continued success is due solely to hordes of stoned second-generation Deadheads looking for something new, something "deep."

Deep, allright. Deeply unimpressive.

Heh

At home after the usual Friday night at the office, I've turned the TV to VH1 Classic, just for a change of pace. Lots of good classic stuff. Then came a band and a song to which I am not particularly favorably disposed — Blue Oyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper."

As the opening notes sounded, the first thing I thought was "more cowbell!"

And then it occurred to me: I'll never have to hear that song the "old" way again.

Television: is there anything it can't do?

Conservative Rock

John Miller of National Review recently put together a list of the 50 greatest conservative rock songs, as recommended by NR readers. My submission, "Blood from a Stone" by The Hooters, didn't make the cut.

My choice did, however, make the "encore list" of 50 additional songs Miller has put together. Check 'em out.

"All You Zombies," also by The Hooters, might have been a good choice, too.

The Rules

Here's a link for my brother, the golfer.

(And here's a test link for Jeff.)

Junkie

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I have to leave Mycah alone in the house for about 12 hours a day on work days. Though she may only have a brain the size of a walnut, I figure she might have just enough synapses to experience boredom.

It isn't hard to tell that Mycah gets bored while I'm away; when I pull up into the driveway in the wee hours of the morning after work, I can see her silhouetted in the front window, sitting on the back of the living room couch, keeping an eye out for my return. I suspect it's mainly because she wants to be fed the minute I walk in, but there's a strong likelihood it's also because she has nothing better to do. It's not like she has many ways to amuse herself.

I do give her a lot of attention when I am home — her favorite game seems to be "hunt the hand moving under the blanket/towel/newspaper" — but while my red cell count is recovering during my work week, she is forced to spend the majority of her time alone.

Ideally, I'd get her a playmate; I'd certainly like to have another cat in the house, and I figure it would be great for Mycah to have a companion, but unfortunately, she doesn't have a history of playing well with others.

At least she doesn't run with scissors.

Still, a way had to be found to keep her little grey cells from shutting down, something to get her attention, something to interest her, some way to keep her as mentally sharp as a middle-aged cat can be. Ultimately, I took the yuppie parent way out: I bought her a DVD that I leave running when I go to work.

Cat Sitter is a DVD that features scenes of rodents, birds, and fish doing what they do. Mice scamper in a terrarium. Birds flutter around a feeder. Fish swim in an aquarium. Squirrels run around in a park. For Mycah, it's like video crack.

No, strike that. It's like video crack, steeped in heroin, with a meth chaser.

I suspect that in her mind's eye she is a sabre-tooth, stalking a wildebeest.


It's Friday, so of course it's time for the Friday Ark. And on Sunday, the Carnival of the Cats at IMAO. [Update, 5/21: the Carnival has arrived.]

I'll be hosting the CotC here on Monday, June 5th (a day later than usual because of my work schedule.)

Quick Movie Review

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Big Night (1996)
(Directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci, starring Tony Shalhoub, Stanley Tucci, Ian Holm, Minnie Driver and Isabella Rossellini)

Timpano? Wow. I have got to find a good Italian restaurant.

5 Stars

Not Soon Enough

I'm planning to go see United 93 as soon as I can. I have no doubt that I'll be a wreck afterwards — I already find my heart leaping into my throat when, in the TV ads, I see the passengers rushing into the aisle to begin their charge.

Some people say they're "over it." Others say it's too soon for a film about the attacks of 9/11.

Well, I'm not "over it," I'll never be "over it." The majority of America isn't "over it." And a film of this sort is long overdue.

I am reminded of the 1942 film Wake Island, released less than a year after the valiant but doomed struggle of a Marine battalion, abandoned to their fate because of the inability of the Navy to reinforce or withdraw them. (The cold calculus of war dictated that a battalion of Marines was not worth the risk of losing two aircraft carriers in the weeks following Pearl Harbor; strategically, it was the right choice, but I'm glad it wasn't me that had to make that awful decision.)

In 1942, no one had the complete story of what had happened at the end, only radio reports. The garrison and the island were lost. The film was made anyway — indeed, work on it began before the battle was over — and can rightfully be called a masterpiece of wartime filmmaking.

60+ years later, the story of Flight 93 is much the same as that of Wake Island. We have the cell phone calls, we have the cockpit voice recordings, and from them we can make a good guess what happened on the flight. But we know the result: free Americans stood and fought, and though they lost their lives, they prevented a much greater tragedy. Their efforts and sacrifice must not be forgotten.

In a different time, a film memorializing them would have been in progress before the end of the year. In that different time, Hollywood was on our side.

Varifrank has a terrific piece about his plans to go to see United 93, about survivor's guilt, and about supporting the making of the film.

(via Tanker at Mostly Cajun.)

(Reviews and more from Hot Air.)

No Choice

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Having come to the conclusion that, in order to be The Compleat Renaissance Man, I need to learn to play a musical instrument, I set out yesterday to talk to some people I thought might help: music teachers.

I visited three music stores, and as I sort-of expected, there were music teachers present at each one, and I was able to get their opinions, and I've considered them.

The guitar would be difficult, and any other stringed instrument would be impossible without cosmetic surgery on my fingertips to make them smaller and pointier. Given that the size of my fingers is not likely to change quite so drastically, the piano is looking like the way to go. I'm cool with that.

Now I just have to figure out where to get started. Looks like I'll be making another trip across town to the music stores.

Choices

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I've lately been thinking I need to finally act on my love of music, and take up an instrument. Not with an eye to performing, mind you, but merely for my own enjoyment. As if I need yet another hobby.

I don't know that I have any talent whatsoever, but when listening to good music, I always find myself wishing I were playing rather than just listening.

Piano would be great, as would guitar; both appear to be as simple or as complex as one might want to make them. And perhaps it's uncommon, but I'd love to learn how to play the violin.

I'm not terribly interested in playing brass or woodwind instruments — it's awfully hard to sing when playing those, though I'd not mind learning the bagpipes. Uilleann pipes (The what? Go here and listen to the sample of Track 4 — I think it's magnificent) might be a nice compromise, but I suspect the body of works for them is somewhat limited.

Problem: my hands are approximately the size and shape of bear paws. I think this is going to limit my options, as far as what I might be physically capable of playing.

Percussion would work with my monster mitts, but drums are neither particularly melodic, nor are they something you can pick up, sit back, and relax with. What a pity — I'm always tapping my fingers and toes along with whatever music to which I'm listening.

I need advice... and it's a bit too late for me to go look up the band teacher at my old high school to get said advise. Maybe a trip to the music store to talk to the pros there.

What do you think?

Quick Movie Review

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Phantom of the Opera (2004)
(Directed by Joel Schumacher, starring Gerard Butler as The Phantom, Emmy Rossum as Christine, Patrick Wilson as Raoul)

I really identified with the Phantom. Almost completely.

Except for being French.

And all the singing and strangling, of course.

5 Stars.

Objects at Rest

"Long after we are gone ... our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains." — G'Kar

Actor Andreas Katsulas passed away February 13th. For Babylon 5 fans, his unforgettable voice lingers.

OK, I'll Watch

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I found a reason to watch some of the 2006 Winter Olympics coverage — the Swedish Women's Curling Team:

Homina homina hawah...

Earworm of the Day

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There's a picture opposite me
of my primitive ancestry
which stood on rocky shores and kept the beaches shipwreck-free.

Though I respect that a lot
I'd be fired if that were my job
after killing Jason off and countless screaming Argonauts.

Yes, I know the song, album and band in question.

No, I'm not telling.

Seriously Ticked Off

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My DVR completely and utterly failed to record the season premiere of 24 last night. I am a bit unhappy about that.

Define "a bit" however you like... but you'll probably underestimate the irritability in this household today.

I wonder if any of my neighbors managed to record it?

It Is To Laugh

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Beth slays me....

Best. Blonde joke. Ever.

One-Hit Oneders

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Suppose you're a young but solidly established — indeed, award-winning — star in Hollywood who, as many actors are wont to do, would like to direct movies yourself. You have a few TV projects under your belt, but the silver screen is where you'd like to go next. What would you pick for your first film project?

An edgy thriller? A schmaltzy romance? A crime drama? When Tom Hanks directed his first film, we can all be glad it was none of the those, but rather a tribute to the spirit of a time when no dream seemed unattainable.

1996's That Thing You Do! will not go down in history as a great film, but it deserves to be remembered as a good one — a simple tale told in a straightforward and engaging way, about people just like people we all know, getting a shot at greatness.

In short: an early-60s going-nowhere garage band makes a change, which leads to their song becoming a hit locally, and then nationally. The film follows The Oneders from their humble beginnings in Erie, PA to their peak of success as The Wonders and thence to their ultimate destiny as a group and as individuals.

This isn't High Art, folks — just the telling of a story. The characters make mistakes big and small, achieve successes big and small, and are variously cruel and kind. You know — just like real people.

Unlike much of real life, however, this movie is almost entirely suitable for family viewing. Very little bad language — none "blue" that I can recall — and no sex or drugs, despite the rock-and-roll.

There's drama, albeit not terribly heavy. This isn't a film that requires deep thought; you might be disappointed to find that the most profound point of the movie is that sometimes people use other people for their own ends. Which, come to think of it, is pretty much like real life.

There's a fair amount of humor as well (much of it inspired by the bands poor initial choice of a name) but it goes by so quickly that it seems to have been included in the movie in order to set a general light-hearted tone rather than to inspire laughs... but I laughed often enough to want to see it over and over.

This is a movie that is simply made to be enjoyed for itself, and I certainly did.

Some notes:

* Tom Hanks, fresh from Forrest Gump and Apollo 13, is the big name on the playbill, but he's not the lead. The part of Mr. White, the agent, could have been filled by many people. Hanks works so well in the role because when the character has anything to say, you have to pay attention to him — his interjections are often important to understanding where the movie is going.

* The cast rehearsed as a band for weeks before performing on film, though most (if not all) of their performances were dubbed. Nonetheless, the members of the band clearly loved what they were doing. I suppose it could have been good acting, but I don't think anyone is that good an actor. Seeing the band onstage in their suits, singing and playing their hearts out, the one emotion that came through clearly to me was Joy.

* I don't imagine the big record labels are much different today than they were in 1964, in the way they treat people.

* Liv Tyler's role as Faye could have been played up a bit more, but she made good use of the part. There was one point at which Faye becomes ill, and I expected there to be a hard choice to be made along the lines of "if you stick by your girlfriend and get sick yourself, you risk your career." The setup was there, but the script took a different direction. Tyler, however, did a rather good job for an 18-year-old. Oh, and yeah — she's totally cute in the part.

* Charlize Theron made one of her first appearances in this film. Brief, and ultimately forgettable.

* The four main cast members have all been working steadily since TTYD, but I don't think I've ever seen any of their other films. Sahara, which co-stars Steve Zahn (guitarist Lenny), is in my NetFlix queue.

* One of the main reasons I wanted to see this film was for the music. I enjoy early-60s music, and got quite a good dose of it in the movie. That none (or very little) of it is authentic product of the 1960s is of little consequence to me. Good is good.

* I wonder if the cast might have thought they were being set up to be a retro version of The Monkees?

* The DVD is nearly devoid of extra features, though it does include music videos for the title song and a second Wonders song, Dance With Me Tonight. Both are quite enjoyable.

* The title song, had it been written and performed by an actual 1964 band, could indeed have propelled that band to stardom. It's catchy, memorable, and tight — not a wasted note. Funnily enough, the song did indeed propel a band to a certain degree of stardom, more about which later.

I enjoyed That Thing You Do! quite a bit, and though it is not going to go down in film history as a classic, Tom Hanks nevertheless deserves credit for directing this little gem. I highly recommend this movie as an addition to your rental queue or even to your DVD library.

Reviews and Recommendations

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[Updated and revised.]

One thing those of you who have read my occasional TV, DVD, movie or music reviews might have noticed is that I don't do in-depth reviews of anything after viewing or listening just once. Usually, that's because I don't partake in entertainment in order to write a review. I simply try to enjoy it.

Add to that the fact that I rarely actually go to the movies, and I don't buy, willy-nilly, every CD that comes out, nor do I watch the "popular" TV shows. Most of them are utter dreck. (Well, I do watch NCIS and CSI and its variants. Good stuff, but I don't ever expect to write reviews of them.)

Nonetheless, there is quality entertainment to be had. One aspect of quality, per se, is the ability to stand the test of time. Perhaps that's why the CDs I occasionally buy were usually released a few years before I buy them.

Sometimes, however, the label "instant classic" really does apply. Something need not be twenty or more years old to have demonstrated qualities that will let it hold its own in the future. By way of example, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which is now just two years old, is one such film. I recommended it here, and received some very good feedback. It is, I think, a film that will be eminently watchable for generations to come.

So if you see an in-depth review of mine, it will probably not be something that aired on TV last night, it probably won't be something you can still go see in the theaters, and it probably will not be something currently on the Billboard top-100 list. Probably not.

Furthermore, I don't intend to review too many things I would not recommend. My time is too valuable to me to waste becoming familiar enough with something I don't like, just to write a full review. If there's something don't like, I'll say so and move along.

Rather, I intend my reviews to be justifications for my recommendations. (Again, refer to M&C.) If I recommend something, you can be sure I either already own it, or it's in my shopping basket — putting my money where my mouth is, you might say.

All that having been said, I expect my next reviews to be of the 1996 movie That Thing You Do! and the CD Welcome Interstate Managers from 2003. Both, as you might expect, will be recommended.

Sci Fi Movie Meme

Via the Llama Butchers (Rob, in particular) we have the latest "list of things I've read, heard, eaten, done, or seen."

This time around, it's Sci-Fi movies.

Actually, with a list like this, it'll be easier to cross off the ones I haven't seen. I've bolded the ones I own on video.

* The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension! — one of my all-time favorites; vastly underrated. "Laugh while you can, monkey-boy."
* Akira
* Alien
* Aliens — Best action/adventure sci-fi film ever. "We'd better get back, 'cause it'll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night... mostly."
* Alphaville
* Back to the Future
* Blade Runner — My brain hurts after I watch this... but it's not a bad sort of hurt. "It's too bad she won't live! But then again, who does?"
* Brazil
* Bride of Frankenstein
* Brother From Another Planet
* A Clockwork Orange
* Close Encounters of the Third Kind
* Contact — "I... had an experience."
* The Damned
* Destination Moon
* The Day The Earth Stood Still
* Delicatessen
* Escape From New York
* ET: The Extraterrestrial
* Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (serial)
* The Fly (1985 version)
* Forbidden Planet
* Ghost in the Shell
* Gojira/Godzilla — "Ogata, humans are weak animals." Weak, yes, but they make excellent kindling.
* The Incredibles
* Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 version)
* Jurassic Park
* Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior
* The Matrix — "What is real? How do you define real?"
* Metropolis — ". . . ." (Hey, what do you expect? It's a silent movie.)
* On the Beach
* Planet of the Apes (1968 version)
* Robocop
* Sleeper
* Solaris (1972 version)
* Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
* Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
* Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
* The Stepford Wives
* Superman
* Terminator 2: Judgement Day
* The Thing From Another World
* Things to Come — "Is it this? Or that? All the universe? Or nothingness?"
* Tron — "End of line."
* 12 Monkeys
* 28 Days Later
* 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
* 2001: A Space Odyssey
* La Voyage Dans la Lune
* War of the Worlds (1953 version) — "I'd say that 'gizmo' is a machine from another planet."

Miers Memos

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It is clear now that no one in the White House is going to face up to reality and reconsider the decision to nominate Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. While I heartily disagree with the selection, I cannot fault the President for his loyalty to his associates. And we now know that Miers will not be withdrawing herself from consideration.

On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with her. I'm sure she has a squeaky-clean record, and her known accomplishments are real — though comparatively modest. The problem is that she just is not what those of us who voted for this President either wanted or expected: a Justice in the mold of Scalia or Thomas.

I've been perusing the historical record, looking for past examples of presidents' nominees who have withdrawn themselves from consideration for various positions. It occurs to me: it would be awfully convenient if Miers had in the past used illegal alien domestics — maids, gardeners, drivers, or even nannies (assuming, of course, that Miers actually has children, of course. Hey, I'm spitballing here. I don't have time to do elementary research.)

Faced with evidence that she had used such employees, she would surely have to stand aside.

In order for an illegal alien employee "tarbrushing" to succeed, the story would have to be credible enough to be believed by the Old Media, so that it will receive plenty of airplay, but little or no scrutiny. As luck would have it, I found a historical example of exactly that kind of tarbrushing.

Given a batch of crudely-forged memos with unverifiable provenance, the media will surely take them at face value and race to get them on the air in an attempt to torpedo the nomination.

All that's needed, then, is the aforementioned batch of crudely-forged memos.

The NC State Fair is in town... I think they have a livestock show.

Now... where I can find a Kinko's?

You Can't Take The Sky From Me

I've been eagerly looking forward to the premiere of Joss Whedon's Serenity, the follow-on film to the cancelled (because Fox programming executives are nitwits) series Firefly.

I don't often go to the theater to see movies anymore, mainly because most of them are unadulterated crap, but occasionally I do decide well in advance that I ought to enjoy certain films on the silver screen, rather than waiting for the DVD or cable. Master and Commander, e.g., was one such. Having enjoyed Firefly on the air and via DVD, Serenity is definitely in the "must see on the big screen" category.

Even better was the prospect of getting to see it early, as a potential blogger reviewer. Sadly, however, the preview here in the Raleigh area is tonight, at 7:30... and here I am, working the swing shift, chained to my desk. My work schedule was apparently not taken into account when the time and place for the preview were set.

Dang.

I'll just have to wait, like everyone else. But I will not be denied my dose of Serenity.

At least you can rest assured that the Internet won't come apart at the seams on my watch tonight.

Still Got It

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How to have fun and surprise the maintenance/janitorial staff at your office: address them — properly — in their native language.

The janitorial staff at my office (and many offices all over the country, I would guess) consists of recent immigrants. Unlike California (for instance) where the immigrants are more likely than not to be of Latin American origin, the people here (and at many other offices in Research Triangle Park, NC) are Asian, usually Korean. The pre-printed bi-lingual "this is trash" and "this is not trash" stickers that are used to identify materials which can or cannot be disposed of are a bit of a giveaway to an old linguist like me.

In the past, I'd rarely ever run into any of the staff – they tend to come after hours when most of the engineers are long gone. But now, I work in a 24x7 facility, on the 2nd shift (nominally 3pm to midnight, but I'm usually here cleaning up network messes until 1am or 2am. Or later... as in, racing to get home before sunrise.) The cleaners come through at about 8.

So last night, while passing their crew-leader fellow in the hallway, I whipped out a little Korean on him. The polite version, not the informal almost-slangy GI version.

Me: "안녕하십니까?" (Roughly, "Hello.")

Him: Stunned disbelief.

Me (to myself): "Heheh."

I think maybe I'll try chatting up the 20-something girl on the crew.

[Maybe I could show her the moderately amazing Google Translator, so she could read fine sites like Outside the Beltway... in Korean.]

Suckitude

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I'm a slacker today, so I'll just do the meme thing. (Via Laurence.)

Anyway, here’s what you do. You go to the Music Outfitters website and type your high school graduation year into the search tool. Select the “list of the 100 most popular songs” and you will get the Raw Material for the next step in the process, which is to look through the list and decide which songs you hated, which ones you liked, and which one was your favorite.

Post the list on your Online Journal, striking through the songs you hated (or still hate) and boldfacing the ones you liked (or still like). Bold and underline your favorite song. No opinion? Leave it as-is.

There was an awful lot of (and a lot of awful) music in 1980. And now — as if you needed it — you get my opinion on the matter. You get to decide which sucks worse: the music of 1980, or my taste in music.

Too Slow Off The Mark

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At The Jawa Report, commenter Rodney Dill beat me to the punchline in this most evil of caption contests.

No, No, No, No, No

There's wrong, and then there's wrong.

This isn't just wrong – this is WRONG:

DONALD RUMSFELD IN A SPEEDO
... Sec. of Defense armed & dangerous!

By GEORGE SANFORD

SECRETARY of Defense Donald Rumsfeld got caught with his pants down during his recent surprise trip to Iraq -- when a chambermaid snapped a photo of him cavorting in his hotel room in a skimpy Speedo-type swimsuit!

Click only if you dare!

Musical Find

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I like to think of myself as a fairly well-educated fellow, as far as the arts are concerned. I'm not an expert of any kind, but I appreciate good music when I hear it, particularly classical music, and I think I have at least a passing familiarity with most of the noteworthy composers.

Every now and then, however, I discover the work of a particular artist or composer I'd never heard (or perhaps simply not noticed) before. One such is Vaughan Williams.

While watching the film Master And Commander I was struck by the quality of the soundtrack, but I assumed that all the music therein was of the period depicted in the film (early 1800s) or was composed specifically for the film. I was surprised, then, to learn that the one piece of music in the film that most caught my attention was in fact composed in 1910.

Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis is simply the most stunning "new-found" piece of music I have heard in a very very long time. How it has escaped my attention over the years is a complete mystery to me.

Perhaps adding to the evocative power of the piece is the way in which it was used in the film. At a critical point, the Captain must choose to sacrifice the life of one of his crew in order to save the ship. He acts quickly, but not alone; he enlists the aid of another crewman – the doomed man's best friend. As death approaches for the unfortunate sailor at the hands of his Captain and of his friend, Vaughan's Fantasia swells, and is enough to make the viewer forget to breathe.

Yes, it's that powerful.

Not a believer? Here's a sound clip: Download file (440Kbytes, 56 seconds – sorry, I had to cut the sample rate down to conserve space. The bass doesn't come through too well, I'm afraid.)

As chance would have it, after I clipped the sound file last night and before I finished writing this "review," Esgaroth over at Tributaries posted her take on the matter, complete with some very good links to information on the Fantasia and on Tallis' original work. It's well worth checking out.

In the future, I intend to listen to a good deal more of Williams' work.

Quote of the Day

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Nehring reviews the movie Constantine:

When you see dogs sniffing one another, they’re actually checking to make sure the other dog doesn’t have the stench of this film on it. This thing is truly awful. It is a grand, brilliant gem of vile stupidity.

And those are among the nicer words he has to say about the movie.

Hysterical / Historical

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When your cable company provides upwards of three hundred channels, not even a DVR is going to help you find the good stuff on TV... and yes, there are some good things on the air wire.

Historyonics is a BBC production that currently airs on History International, but could just as easily be shown on Comedy Central. It takes a very funny look at some of the major events in English history — the battle of Hastings, the tale of Robin Hood, and so on — while imparting some actual historical knowledge to the viewer.

And when I say it's very funny, I mean it's fall-out-of-your-chair hilarious, if British style humor is your thing. I have the bruised hip to prove it. Examples:

• The Battle of Stamford Bridge rages, set to the song "Everybody was kung-fu fighting...."

• William the Bastard, having just sailed from Normandy across the English Channel with his army, disembarks upon the shores of England; he is about to go through the legal forms required to change his name to William the Conqueror. First, however, he summons his soothsayer to give him the, er, sooth.

William: Bring forth my soothsayer!

Knight: He drowned on ze way over, Sire.

William: As omens go, that's probably a bad one.

If you are fortunate enough to get History International on your cable or satellite system, I urge you to give this program a look. It will probably be listed in your TV Guide as "Almanac." For air times search the H.I. website for "Historyonics."

New Classic

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It seems like it's not often, these days, that a "war movie" can be made without its characters devolving into introspective weepiness, riddled with self-doubt and prone to questioning the point of the conflict. Either that, or the protagonist is an abominable sort of character.

Master And Commander – The Far Side Of The World has no such problems.

Being something of an enthusiast for the whole "Age of Sail" genre — I grew up reading my Dad's Hornblower books — I made a point of seeing M&C in the theaters when it came out in late 2003. I was prepared to be disappointed, but I need not have worried. I was hugely impressed, and as soon as the DVD was available, I snapped up a copy. It may be that a better film about war at sea has been made, but if so, I've not seen it – and I've seen most of them.

Based on the Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian, and taking its name from the first and tenth books in the series, the movie is a blend of elements of the entire series, rather than just one of the novels put to film. Those familiar with the novels will recognize the general plot outline as being from "The Far Side of the World," with incidents and dialogue (including a fair amount of humor) taken in pieces from the full range of books and blended into a seamless whole.

Over at Llama Butchers yesterday, Robert had the temerity to criticize the casting of Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey, calling him "broody and moody." I beg to differ. By curious coincidence, I had watched the DVD the night before, and suggested in the comments that

Crowe didn't play Aubrey as originally written (for starters, Aubrey was severely obese....) But more to the point, I can watch the movie over and over, and I never think "that's Russell Crowe" – he completely subordinates himself to the role.

Having watched it again last night, I'll stand by that.

Some further observations:

• The movie is rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences, related images, and brief language. The language is in fact very brief. There are plenty of "damns" to go around, but only one very quick interjection of anything harsher; the use is apt, given the context. If someone had stolen two years of my work and burnt my ship, I'd swear, too.

Master and Commander won two Oscars and was nominated for eight others. [Every one of those eight was won by Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.] The award for cinematography was well-deserved – this film is simply beautiful.

• This is a man's film, about manliness and duty among men at war. There are no women in the featured cast. A few women appear on screen for a few seconds early on, but they are quickly passed and the film continues.

• The role of Dr. Maturin in the film is primarily that of Aubrey's conscience; unexplained in the film is that Maturin is more than Aubrey's best friend, a physician, and a naturalist – he is also an intelligence agent. The character, being a naval neophyte, also occasionally serves a useful purpose when nautical matters need to be explained for the benefit of the viewer, who might not be likely to know what the "weather gage" (for example) might be.

• There is a lot of violence, of course – it's war on the high seas. Blood, a bit. Lots more gritting-of-teeth than actual gore. Mostly, it's violent action without a lot of organs and limbs flying about.

• There is some death, of course; this is a war movie. It's handled very poignantly, however, without the characters getting overly maudlin. Sometimes death cannot be avoided, and may be necessary. After the death of a sailor in an accident that could have been avoided if Aubrey had not been doing his duty as he saw fit, the following exchange takes place:

Aubrey: This is a ship of war, and I will grind whatever grist the mill requires in order to fulfill my duty.

Maturin: Whatever the cost?

Aubrey: Whatever the cost.

• One thing I found particularly impressive was the portrayal of the midshipmen. The film does a astoundingly good job of presenting teenage boys as something other than trash-mouth self-centered whining snivelling little turds. This film should be mandatory viewing for all teenage boys.

• Max Pirkis, as the 12 or 13 year old Midshipman Lord Blakeney, is especially noteworthy. Despite suffering a grievous injury early in the film, his character soldiers on, and in the climactic battle is simply remarkable, demonstrating leadership, initiative and resolve far above the capacity of most people many years older. That Pirkis won two acting awards for his performance is entirely appropriate. That neither of those awards was an Oscar is a shame.

• The musical score is perfect. 'Nuff said.

Master and Commander is destined in years to come to be looked back at as a classic. If you haven't seen it, rent it. If you have seen it and don't own it, buy it.

When Pigs Fly...

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... Pink Floyd reunites.

I'd never have thought it would happen. The history of the rancorous split of Roger Waters from the band is fairly well known. I'd have sooner expected John and George to rise from the dead to join Paul and Ringo for a Beatles reunion.

And rancor there certainly was. On the album The Division Bell is the song Lost For Words, which includes what is unmistakeably the recounting of a call for reconciliation, and subsequent rejection:

So I open my door to my enemies
And I ask could we wipe the slate clean
But they tell me to please go **** myself
You know you just can't win

One might be forgiven for thinking it would never happen.

But, live on the Live8 stage in London, there they all are. Older, greyer — but there. For a fan of classic rock music such as I, this is a treat of the highest order.

Update: Whoever at MTV/VH1 thought it would be a good idea to interrupt Comfortably Numb with those dopey prepubescent "veejays" needs to be put up against a Wall and shot.

Update 2: Dopey? Yes, dopey — but insipid, too.

Getting Out

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Dusty John at Castle Argghhh! has a link to the Ted Kennedy Plan To Get Out Of Iraq.

As for me, I'm just surprised Teddy is still alive. As I noted in a comment on another site, the fact that he has not yet shuffled off this mortal coil is a strong testament to the preservative power of alcohol.

[Attribution of the linked post has been repaired. Sorry, John.]

Aslan Lives!

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I thought I had found this at Absinthe & Cookies, but now I don't see it there.... Oh, well. From FoxNews:

Lions Save African Girl From Abductors

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — A 12-year-old girl who was abducted and beaten by men trying to force her into a marriage was found being guarded by three lions who apparently had chased off her captors, a policeman said Tuesday.

My first thought on seeing the story was "Aslan lives!"

That this thought occurred to me is almost certainly the result of having seen one of the previews shown before the movie I saw last week. Said preview was, of course, for the upcoming The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

It looks absolutely, stunningly, incredibly good.

Granted, previews are supposed to put the best possible face on the movie they advertise, but if the highlights are anything whatsoever to go by, LW&W has the potential to make the Lord of the Rings trilogy look like a crap sandwich... and I say this as a guy who thinks LOTR is one of the finest things ever recorded on film.

I rarely go out to the movies anymore, despite the fact that I actually like going to movies. More specifically, I like going movies that interest me for one reason or another, which might explain why I so rarely go. For instance, Revenge of the Sith was the first movie I've gone to see since last October.

It surely won't be another eight or nine months before I go to the next. LW&W is due to hit theaters in early December.

A Load of Sith

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I finally broke down last week and saw Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. There's no need for me to review it, as such — plenty of folks already have done so.

I will say that I thought the script was pretty thin — like butter scraped over too much bread, so to speak — but given that script, the movie came out all right. It was better then I expected, though it lacked the one thing that would have redeemed all of Lucas' previous errors: the very public, very graphic dismemberment of Jar-Jar Binks.

Mee-sa still sooOOoo bloody annoyed.

I'm sure I'll have further reflections and commentary later.

Quote of the Day

Maybe YOU don't think curare suppositories are funny. I beg to differ.

Steve H.

(And be sure to follow the link he's posted.)

(Yo, Wizbang.)

Kerry "Releases" His Records

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So John Kerry has released his military records to the Boston Globe. The Globe, being the upstanding paradigm of journalism that it is (see here, for an example of their journalistic credibility), will undoubtedly give the world the straight story on the contents of those records.

Yes. And someday I might don a cape and tights and fly under my own power.*

Globe reporter Michael Kranish tells us there is a "lack of any substantive new material about Kerry's military career" in the files.

I'm wagering that what we have just witnessed is a completely new usage of the word "substantive." Someone should let the folks at Merriam-Webster know about this.

Kranish — who, as Michelle Malkin notes, co-authored the Kerry campaign suck-up book John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography By The Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best (a title as wordy as the former candidate himself) — would appear to be Kerry's "go-to" guy in the print media.

Kerry thus gets the benefit of being able to claim full disclosure, without the slightest potential of a critical word being said by the news staff at his media outlet-of-choice.

As a sop to the critics, however, details of Kerry's academic career were published, including a photo of the undergraduate Kerry.

Guess which one is the young Brahmin:

bad Kerry photoStar Trek: salt vampire

OK, that was just cruel. Deliciously cruel. But it's no wonder he didn't want those records released. The camera just isn't friendly to him at all.

* I might someday fly under my own power, but I will never wear tights and a cape. Which, all things considered, would be for the best. Trust me on this.


Update: looks like some other folks are having fun with the yearbook picture. And no, I don't have my own yearbook picture handy, like some folks do. This will have to do:

Update 2: Matt scores some commentary from Swift Boat Vet kahuna John O'Neill.

Memorial Day Movie Classics

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The two major cable channels that show "classics", American Movie Classics (AMC) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) are showing military-themed movies this weekend. Apart from that general topic, the film selections couldn't be more different.

I don't have a list of all the films the two channels have already shown this weekend, but the guide on the digital cable can tell me what's coming up for the rest of today and tomorrow.

Looking at the list of movies below, I get a distinct impression about the attitudes of the two stations as to what constitutes an appropriate film for a Memorial Day marathon.

Movie Manners

Hey, John — us tall people have to sit somewhere. Maybe the theater chains should force you short folks to sit up front.

And shooting babies is just wrong. Stupid parents, though... sign me up.

Not Vacationing

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Sorry for the lack of posting... I've been busy this week, and too tired at night to think straight.

In lieu of original content, here's a picture of naked chicks with guns:

Absurdity Illustrated

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While reporting on the "serious" problem of "Mommy Madness" — the inability of some modern urban women to cope with the pressures associated with trying to be über-careerist while simultaneously dealing with the motherhood stresses borne by, well, all of their progenitors — Iowahawk brushes against one of my pet peeves: bad and/or hyper-trendy baby names.

Along with her children - Cheyenne, 11, Dakota, 7, F-150 Crewcab, 6, and Brandon, 4 -- Pearsall regularly visits Winn-Dixies and dirt tracks throughout North Florida to raise awareness.

**—SNORT—**

Dang. Another keyboard dead before its time.

The whole thing is a hoot, and highly recommended.

(Via Ian S.)

Life Saver

I have a new hero.

LT's Hell

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A 2nd Lieutenant met an untimely end and found himself standing before St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.

Said St. Peter, "Welcome, Lieutenant. You have served faithfully, and may enter Heaven."

"Well," said the shavetail, "I'd sure like to come in, but if there are any Sergeants Major in Heaven, I don't want to go in. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's being treated like a child by a cigar-chewing, know-it-all, been-everywhere, seen-everything Sergeant Major."

"No," said Peter, "there's not a single Sergeant Major who ever made it here to Heaven. Not a one. Now, report up to the Heaven HQ for your assignment. It's that gold building at the top of that hill."

"I figured as much," thought the LT to himself as he marched through the Pearly Gates.

Moving towards the golden building, the Lieutenant realized how orderly the setting around him was, and knew he would be very happy in Heaven. Every street had been policed, all the grass freshly mown, and every rock painted. Getting closer to HQ, though, he began to hear what sounded like yelling coming from one of the open windows. He crept up to investigate.

Looking in the window, he saw what he feared most — a Sergeant Major, leaning back in a swivel chair, feet up on his desk, shouting into a telephone and waving a cigar around. Around the desk, half a dozen junior officers were doing pushups non-stop.

Horrified, the Lieutenant hastened back towards the Gates. "I want out of here ASAP!" he told St. Peter.

"Lieutenant!" cried Pete, "what's wrong? I thought you were going to be happy here!"

"Happy?" wailed the young shavetail. "How can I be happy here? I spent my too-short career being condescended to by every Sergeant Major I ever saw! I hate them! And when I asked if there were any here, you said no!" He described what he had seen.

"Oh!" said the saint, "No, no, no. That wasn't a Sergeant Major at all.... You see, that was God — He just thinks he's a Sergeant Major!"

[Old joke, brought to mind by this post at Castle Argghhh!]

A Moment With Carnak The Magnificent

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"The answer is — sis-boom-baaah."

The envelope is opened to reveal the answer....

Stop! Or I'll....

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Someone stop this man before he puns again.

Once in a while, you stumble across a previously unseen gem.

Howard Zinn's and Noam Chomsky's post-modernism takes one on the chin, in a long but thoroughly enjoyable parody from 2003, "The Real Atrocity in Tolkien's Middle Earth."

Zinn: Here, very significantly, we have the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm. You will notice that what is destroyed is a bridge — another potential connector.

Chomsky: On a symbolic level, that is a very good point.

Zinn: All the borders in this film are constantly being destroyed, or overrun, or eliminated, or sealed. It's all about fear - fearing the other. Notice, too, that the Elf Legolas jumps across the ruined bridge first.

Chomsky: They'll cross this bridge and the bridge will collapse, and they'll never be able to communicate with the Balrog again, or with the Orcs inside. In fact, they're sealing off the Orcs from ever escaping. They're leaving the Orcs in the cave with this big Balrog. Now, again, surely, among these Moria Orcs were some Orc radicals — aggressive, angry, militant radicals. We shouldn't understate that.

Zinn: Well, look how the Orcs grow up. What do you expect?

Chomsky: I mean, what other options have they?

Zinn: I dare say that, were I an Orc, I might possibly be one of those terrorist Orcs, shooting arrows at the Fellowship myself.

Chomsky: Here comes the Balrog. Notice Gandalf's unilateral action. "Quick, get away, I have to fight this thing alone!"

Zinn: Once again you see a creature that's on fire being demonized in this movie: the flaming eye, the flaming Balrog. As though being on fire is this terrible affliction to have.

Chomsky: As though they can help it if they're on fire.

I wasn't expecting a good chuckle today, but I sure got one.

[The piece was written by Jeff Alexander and Tom Bissell of McSweeny's Internet Tendency, and can also be found on their site.]

Heh

What does a French rooster say?

"Coque-a-poodle-du."

Update: No, it's not supposed to make sense. So don't think about it. Just let it roll over and flow through you.

Compared to TA:WP, the cuss-fest South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut was a Disney-esque stroll through flowery fields.

I still laughed myself silly at both of them.

Yes, that makes me a bad, bad man.

Yes, yes. I'm ronery too. But you don't see me dealing with terrorist scumbags.

On the other hand, if I had a nuke or two, I might "deal with them" in my own particular way.

Apropos of nothing...

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If Tivo'ing Special Report with Brit Hume just to watch and re-watch Brit verbally pimp-slap the increasingly shrill Juan Williams is wrong, I don't want to be right.

When creating their special effects, Parker & Stone should have experimented on the non-puppet Michael Moore before shooting that particular scene.

Is there anything so sad as a missed opportunity?

Sergeant Saunders Says...

Sergeant Chip Saunders from 'Combat!'
All right, knock it off.

Yeah, you! Shut up and listen up.

You people make me sick. Go on, look at yourselves. You call yourselves Americans? You're a bunch of goof-ups!

I said, listen up!

OK, now look... we have a dangerous mission ahead of us. Yes, us again. I know there are other outfits that might be able to handle this operation, but they wanted the best, and that's us. We've had our share of danger, you bet. But when the hard job has to be done, there's no one better qualified to handle it.

We've lost a lot of good people in this war — a lot of 'em were just minding their own business when the world fell on them — and we'll lose more before this war is over. No one said it would be an easy fight. But it's up to us. Yep, the Brits and Aussies are with us in this fight, and the Poles are on our side, and plenty of others too. Glad to have 'em. They've come to help us, just like we'd go to help them if they needed....

What's that, Caje? The French? They're mostly collaborators. Can't trust 'em in this war. Now shut up until I'm done talking.

So anyway, we have this fight we're hip-deep in, and some people think it's time to trade our commander-in-chief for a new one. I've heard some crazy knuckle-headed ideas before, but that one really takes the cake.

We've got a fine C-in-C now, doing a pretty good job, and it sure isn't General Eisenhower running against him. Nope, it's a swabbie, a Lieutenant of all people. Oh... sorry, Lieutenant Hanley.... As I was about to say, I know some sailors, and I know some Lieutenants — most of 'em are OK by me. But this one abandoned ship as soon as he could. A four-month tour in a combat zone. How long have we been here? Heck, some of us have been in harm's way for over three years now.

That Lieutenant didn't just leave his buddies behind, though. As soon as he got home, he started bad-mouthing them and everything they were doing. He lied about them. That doesn't sit too well with me.

Now he wants the top job, the Oval Office, and so far the one thing we know is he'll say anything to get it. Heck, he'll even make nice with those French collaborators. I don't like the sound of that. I'll bet you don't either.

So now it's time to go vote for our C-in-C for the next four years. You can choose — but there's only one choice if you want us to win this war. When you hit that voting booth, I want you to pull the lever for George W. Bush.

Any questions? OK, we've got a job to do.

Saddle up.

[This message brought to you by the Heroes for Bush project.]

[Also see Ambassador Kosh's endorsement.]

[Update: And don't miss the Heroes for Bush roundup.]

Freedom isn't free. I know that.

But I'm pretty sure that $1.05 is a lowball price, too.

Kosh Says...

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Kosh says: Once the avalanche begins, it will be too late for the pebbles to vote.  Be part of the avalanche.  Vote Bush/Cheney in '04.

[Click image for full size.]

John Kerry claims to have foreign leaders on his side. Ha! Who needs France and the U.N. when you can have a Vorlon?

[This message brought to you by the Heroes for Bush project.]

[Also see Sergeant Saunders' endorsement.]

[Update: And don't miss the Heroes for Bush roundup.]

I am not old enough to see this movie.

You can stop terrorist marionettes by using a bunch of fancy armament.

But it'd be simpler to cut their strings.

Cheaper, too.

Reflections on Team America: World Police

America? Yes. Yes, indeed.

You betcha.

All previous snarkiness notwithstanding, I enjoyed the movie. It is unquestionably the best movie I've gone to see this year.

OK, OK, so it's the only movie I've gone out to see this year. I don't get out much.

Could it be...?

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Separated at birth?

Berkeley weirdoKerry bunny suit

Thanks to Zombie, via Bill at INDC Journal for the picture of the lefty weirdo. Which one that is, I'll leave to you to decide.

(Apologies for the crappy photoshop job.)

Update: Welcome, Instapundit visitors. My very first 'lanche, and it had to be on a cheesy photoshop job.

Late update, 1/30/2007: At Hot Air, suggestions that Kerry's photo op was a violation of campaign law. It was a great picture, though.

Schopenhauer

Philosophy done right.

Note to Angelina: the Hathaway Man look is really only meant for, y'know, men.

The next time I'm in trouble and need armed and dangerous assistance, I hope it's not Angelina Jolie who comes to help, whether she has an arial armada at her disposal, or not.

Update: Emily Procter, with or without the armada, would be just fine.

The real Sky Captains:

I wanted to buy a gallon of sepia at the home improvement center, but they were out. Seems Sky Captain had used it all. Every bit of it.

Gwyneth Paltrow or not, backseat driving is still backseat driving. Even in a P-40 Warhawk.

Especially in a P-40 Warhawk.

Update: I have been chastized for my un-comradeliness for failing to link to this P-40 Warhawk page. I'll expect my axe-wielding assassin in the morning.

Is there some new law on the books in Hollywood that says a man may perform high-risk deeds of derring-do only if a woman bails him out at the last minute?

Sir Laurence Olivier? OK, I guess... but I could have played that part. For less money, too, I bet.

What is it with evil scientists and giant robots, anyway?

Not Leaving Well Enough Alone

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As a not-to-be-taken-seriously movie, I've always enjoyed The Last Starfighter. It's a fun little movie, notable mainly for it's breakthrough use of computer generated graphics, as well as being the last film performance of the great Robert Preston.

An eminently middle-of-the-road film... but they couldn't leave well enough alone.

'The Last Starfighter', the Musical, Beams Down Into World Premiere in NYC

OK, I'll fess up: I'd go see it. I am, as friends are inclined to point out, such a geek.

That, Or Expectoration

Remember to Remember

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Amidst all the highly-charged turmoil of this political season, it's important that we take time out for the truly important things.

Things like Talk Like A Pirate Day on the 19th — this Sunday.

Arrrr!

Finding a DDO

This being the political season, we can expect to see the Suspiciously Timed Release (STR) of Documents of Dubious Origin (DDO) more and more as we proceed towards election day.

The memoranda used by CBS certainly qualify as DDO.

Clearly, "finding" old documents (memoranda, files, photos and so on) is an activity in which we as Americans all have the right — nay, the duty — to participate.

John Hawkins has found another document from CBS.

Here's the one I found stuck to the back of my DD-214:

memo-small.gif

(Click for full size.)

I encourage you all to go out and find documents of particular interest, post them to the web, and let me know about them.

If you have a request for a particular incriminating document to be found, I'm sure someone can oblige.

Update: Jay has one, too. As does the Commissar.

Update 2: And let's not forget ScrappleFace.

Evil Thought of the Day

Some people are like Slinkies...

... not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you see one tumble down the stairs.

Current Affairs

Western nations have been assaulted by the forces of a radical ideology, bent on conquest.

They have struck at the leading nation of the West, and have voiced their desire to conquer, enslave and convert the world. They mean it. They have thousands of willing servants, while the nations of the West are divided and bickering.

France [*spit*] has allied itself with the enemies of the West.

One man, though, has seen the danger and has acted to stop it. He built a coalition. Coalition troops have gone off to the field of battle and have been victorious.

Thus we have a brief summary of the world today.

Right? Yes, indeed it is.

But...

Quote of the Day

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Ann Coulter, on the forthcoming book Unfit For Command:

If memory serves, the last book Democrats tried this hard to suppress was the Bible.

The More Things Change...

I'm re-reading one of my favorite books, Men of War, the second volume of the There Will Be War series edited (and in large part written) by Jerry Pournelle. Dr. Pournelle is more than a "mere" science fiction author — he's also a respected academic with a large body of work to his credit, including a key role in the formulation of the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Now out of print, but still available through used-book outlets, the book consists of non-fiction essays and short fiction stories, and was published at a time when the Soviet danger was at or near its maximum. Twenty years later, it is fascinating to read what some very smart people had to say about the nature of threats against us. Take, for example, the following passages, written by Dr. Stefan Possony in 1968 about "Technological War":

The United States is at war.... Except for financial sacrifices, many citizens of the West and subjects of Communism may be unaware of the conflict until the decisive moment, if it ever comes, is upon them. For all that, the Technological War is most real, and we must understand its nature, for it is decisive. Our survival depends on our not losing this battle.

The nature of both technology and the enemy dictate this state of warfare. The U.S.S.R. is a power-oriented dictatorship, whose official doctrine is Communism: that is, a chiliastic movement which seeks to liberate — we would say enslave — the entire earth.

Written in '68, but sounds familiar, no? For "communism" substitute "Islamofascism," and for "U.S.S.R." substitute "Muslim part of the world" or "caliphate" or the synonym of your choice.

We can be thankful, at least, that major new technologies are not being developed by our current enemies, though they are perfectly happy to use our technology when they can get it. What we do have to worry about, however, is new methodologies used to employ old technology.

They can't build airliners — they can only crash them into targets, but that's bad enough.

Further along, we read:

Moreover, aggressive actions may occur because of internal pressures, especially in a period when faith in Communism as an ideological system is declining, and it is possible, though unlikely, that aggressive initiatives will be taken by non-Communist states. Despite all those implications the U.S.S.R. is the single most important and strongest opponent of the United States. Consequently, American strategists must primarily be concerned with Soviet strategy and the threat posed by the U.S.S.R.

In my humble estimation, I think this paragraph would apply equally to Islamofascism and to the Peoples' Republic of China. China is a threat — and they are investing heavily in technology. Thus far they've mainly stolen it (for example, see the recently settled Cisco Systems lawsuit against Huawei) but in short order, they will be developing new technologies to compete with and ultimately defeat the West.

[I've often said that I think we'll be in a shooting war with China in the not too distant future — I started, ten or fifteen years ago, by suggesting 2025 as a "due date," but I'm now less optimistic about the number of years we have remaining. Thanks a lot, Clinton & Schwartz. Bastards.]

It must be emphasized that to the committed Communist, there are no ideological reasons for not exploiting advantages over the capitalists. The only possible objections are operational. No communist can admit that a capitalist government is legitimate; thus there can be no "mercy" to a vulnerable capitalist regime.

Again, this applies rather accurately to the current state of Islamic radicalism. Our governments, institutions and religions are, to their way of thinking, illegitimate. The only options they leave for us to choose from are death, dhimmitude, or victory.

The entire essay (more precisely, a chapter from the book The Strategy of Technology) is well worth reading, but may be difficult to acquire. Fortunately, an updated edition of the complete book is available online at Dr. Pournelle's site. This is not light reading, folks. But valuable, very valuable.

Figure of Speech

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A Tennessee law professor blogger who shall remain nameless posts a link to some sort of article on California business. The expression "nibbled to death by ducks" makes an appearance.

As that unnamed blogger might say, "heh."

My all-time favorite TV series (which, in the Grand Scheme Of Things, ranks in importance somewhere between a favorite grandparent and a favorite flavor of icecream) is Babylon 5. (The full set of DVDs is in my wish list... but I may pop for it myself one of these days.)

Yes, I'm a geek.

Yes, there's a connection. Bear with me.

Babylon 5 was smartly-written: gritty, suspenseful, thrilling and realistic (well... as realistic as science fiction can reasonably be), with grand themes surrounding the day-to-day action. Characters had failings, flaws and deep dark secrets — no prissy Jean-Luc Picards anywhere to be seen. The problems of everyday life intruded into the characters' lives. The tip-off for me was that the space station had bathrooms, and characters actually used them.

[I'm convinced the missions of Star Trek's vessels were mainly concerned searching for planets with decent lavatory facilities, since no commodes are apparent on Star Fleet's ships.]

As the saying goes, for science fiction to be good science fiction, it must first be good fiction. By any standard, B5 scored on that count. It was such a good show that, given Hollywood's penchant for killing quality projects, I still think it's a miracle it made it to the airwaves at all, much less made it through its complete 5-year storyline.

If you never followed it, I can only say: it's not too late.

Not only was B5 one great big terrific story, but almost all episodes (there were a couple of stinkers) were good stories in and of themselves. Throughout the series were moments that would have any normal person shivering with anticipation, cheering, saddened, or laughing out loud.

Hence this post. We began with ducks, and end with one of my favorite "gems" of dialog from the program.

Londo: "... I think I will stick my head in the station's fusion reactor. It would be quicker. And I suspect, after a while I might even come to enjoy it. But this — this, this, this is like being nibbled to death by... what are those Earth creatures called? Feathers, long bill, webbed feet .. go 'quack'...?"

Vir: "Cats."

Londo: "Cats. I'm being nibbled to death by cats."

Cracks me up every time.

[I always thought the expression was "nibbled to death by cats" rather than "by ducks." A quick Google of both phrases yields 2,910 hits for "cats" and a mere 695 for "ducks," but that's beside the point....]

[Point? What point?]

Ode to Lard

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DoggerelPundit should be working on Madison Avenue. Who else could possibly come up with ad copy like this?

Are you loving your carbs,
     Fat in cooking you’re fond?
Do you nibble or wolf—
     Gastronome or gourmand?
Do you crave real food
     From true kettle and pan?
Cook from Eat What You Want,
     And Die Like A Man
.
So buy the book, already.

Meme Rampant

John of Castle Argghhh! has spotted the latest meme to surface: "which of the top 100 grossing movies of all time have you seen?"

I rarely go to the movie theater anymore. I like seeing a good movie on the big screen; I just don't like being wedged into a theater with a couple hundred boorish teenagers.

I'll distinguish between films I've seen on the big screen, in bold, and those I've seen on cable/pay-per-view/DVD, in bold italics. See the extended entry for the list.

Moody Blues

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Have I mentioned that my all-time favorite musical group is the Moody Blues? No? Well, I don't want to come off sounding like an infatuated teeny-bopper or anything....

I'm not saying that I would walk over my own grandmother (if I had one left) to go see one of their concerts, but I would. Maybe.

The band did a guest spot on The Simpsons (who hasn't?) and parodied one of their songs (but who hasn't?)

[Homer and Ned attempt to flee the hotel casino where they have apparently married a couple women of easy virtue.]

W.O.E.V.: Somebody help! Our husbands are trying to ditch us!

[The word goes out over the P.A. system... Homer and Ned try to make their escape, but run into security guards, Seigfried & Roy lookalikes w/ a tiger (to which Homer exclaims "A lion!"), Drederick Tatum, and finally...]

Homer: [shriek] The Moody Blues!
Graeme Edge: Cold hearted Homer, ditching his wife, while ancient Ned runs for his life.
Justin Hayward: Chips of red and blue and white, but we decide which....
John Lodge: Can the poems, it's ass-whuppin' time.
Ray Thomas [pulling a dagger out of his flute]: I want fatty.

That never fails to crack me up.

Ray Thomas has pretty much retired from the band due to health issues - including gout, an ailment with which I am intimately familiar. He wasn't looking too mobile the last time I saw the band in concert - I thought he might have had a hip or knee replacement. He'll be much missed.

Eat, Drink and be Merry

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Some (or most, maybe) of you know that Steve H. of Hog on Ice (formerly Little Tiny Lies) has written a cookbook.

To health nuts and food nazis everywhere, it's the Satanic Bible of cookbooks.

OK, maybe that's a bit harsh.

OK, that's definitely too harsh. But accurate. And it got your attention, didn't it?

The book, of course, is Eat What You Want and Die Like a Man: The World's Unhealthiest Cookbook.

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wet your pants – this is one excellent read. Steve has been, from the very beginning of my blog awareness, one of the consistenly great daily reads on the 'net. I don't link to him nearly enough.

The book really will make you laugh, too - a lot, and out loud. The recipes are amazing, but the real point of the book is the humor, of which there is plenty. Not that the recipes are to be ignored. No, never that.

The book actually is evil, to a degree. Not once in my life had I ever bought lard – until today, that is. [When one has spent most of one's life overweight to one extent or another, one tends to avoid anything with the word "lard" printed on it in big red block letters.]


Buy the dang book!

Just buy it. Seriously. You'll regret it if you don't... especially if I come knocking on your door demanding proof that you have followed my instructions.

This Missive: Dismissive

"Friends"? That was a TV show? Hmm, I must have been busy with something else....

I have never seen a single episode of Friends. Not once. If it were a choice between Friends and turning off the TV, I'd be reaching for the remote faster than you can say "annoying theme song."

It's going off the air? Feh. Tonight is the last episode? So what?

Nor, I might add, have I ever seen Buffy, or 90210, Baywatch, Survivor or ER (despite the fact that I went to junior high school with Anthony Edwards, who didn't mind being called "Tony" back in the '70s.). I don't make it a practice to watch any sitcom currently running, except The Simpsons.

I only ever saw one episode of Seinfeld. I hated it. Passionately. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've watched Fraser.

Dramas? Ya, I watch 24 and CSI. Oh, and Monk, but that's syndication-only, so I don't think it really counts. Babylon 5 ruled. So did Firefly. It's a pity they're gone.

Reality shows? Oh, puh-leeze. I'd sooner crazy-glue my eyes shut, then nail them down just to be safe.

Glad I got that off my chest.

Esoteric Irony

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Have I mentioned that I'm a history geek?

I laughed out loud when I saw this:

history-int-oops.gif

[For the non-historically-minded, it's supposed to be Graf Spee. Not a huge blunder, as such things go, but somewhat entertaining.]

Copycat

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Marching instructions:

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 23.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
OK, sure:
"She swung broad on the slackening ebb, and Captain Aubrey moved over to the starboard rail, his telescope still trained on Portsmouth."
Patrick O'Brien, "The Ionian Mission" - eighth in the Aubrey/Maturin series of novels. "Master and Commander" was the first of the series, "The Far Side of the World" the tenth.

[Inspired by WindRider at Silent Running, who has traced the origin of this thing.]

Entertainment Plans

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I was mulling over the idea of going to see a movie tomorrow night; I haven't been to a theater since Lord of the Rings - Return of the King. But a better entertainment idea has occurred to me.

I'm going to park across from the Post Office tomorrow and laugh at all the last-minute tax filers. It should be as amusing as (and cheaper than) any movie.

[I got my Fed and State refunds a month ago, thankyouverymuch.]

Ballad of the Chocolate Bunny

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From my sister, a quick composition:

Chocolate bunny on my shelf,
here are questions I ask myself:
As you stand so brown and still,
do you feel a lethal chill?

Do you know your tragic fate?
Do you know that you'll be ate?
Or have I helped quiet your fears
by eating off both of your ears?

Quote of the Day

With regard to computers:

Interfaces are ok for newcomers, but people who actually know what they're doing use a magnetised needle and a steady hand.
Mike MacCana, on the linux-elitists mailing list

Near Miss

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Hillary! has had a narrow escape.

All I want for Christmas...

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I have got to get me one of these.

I Need More Power Tools

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My garage is full of power tools, but they're all woodworking tools.

I have to get my hands on some metal-machining tools now, of course. Because now I can make one of these:

M-60 Machine Gun

It seems that, in a rare moment of lucidity, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the "commerce clause" of the Constitution means what it says -- that activities not considered to be interstate commerce cannot be outlawed by Congress.

Like, for instance, owning a homemade machine gun. (Article here, PDF of the court's decision here.)

[Yes, yes, I know -- decisions of the Ninth Circuit don't apply to North Carolina. Just this once, though, I wish they did. And man, oh man, I loved my M-60 -- the best firearm Uncle Sam ever issued to me.]

Via Instapundit.

It's About Time

I'm glad to see the dot-com stock market is returning to normal.

Annoying Osama

Allegedly from Alan Meiss:

Fifty Ways To Annoy Osama bin Laden If You're Invited To A Dinner Party At His Secret Afghan Lair

[Assuming, of course, that he isn't already a smear of decomposing jelly on a cave floor somewhere....]

1. Point out the lice in his beard to make him feel self-conscious.

2. Pause for a moment, listen carefully, and say, "Doesn't that sound a lot like a B-52?"

3. Ask him if he's looking forward to replacing Hitler as Satan's favorite chew toy in the lowest inferno of Hell.

4. Tell him all about your great vacation to Saudi Arabia, where you went absolutely everywhere and did everything, just stomped all over the place.

5. Use his satellite phone to call the time and weather line in Buenos Aires and leave it off the hook.

DVD Upgrade

About a month ago, I wrote

whoever put the DVD version of Zulu on the market needs an assegai stuck squarely into his chest.
I wasn't kidding.

Zulu, for the uninitiated, is the story of the Battle of Rorke's Drift. Told with the usual in-filling of artistic license, the film nevertheless conveys a pretty good picture of the battle, 22-23 January 1879, in which some 150 British soldiers held off about 4,000 Zulu warriors, forcing them to withdraw with heavy casualties. Redcoats of the 24th Foot, a mostly Welsh regiment, were awarded 11 Victoria Crosses for the action.

[By way of comparison, only four men received the Medal of Honor for the D-Day landings at Normandy. And yes, the British are notoriously stingy with the V.C. - in 1879, there was no allowance for posthumous awards, for instance.]

The DVD release of Zulu which I had was put out by some outfit called Diamond Entertainment. I bought it because it was the only DVD release available in 2000.

It profoundly sucked.

In every way a DVD could be awful, this one was. My heavily-worn VHS copy from 1988 was better than that craptastic DVD. Extra features: nonexistant. The video quality was appallingly bad, as though someone had videotaped it off a screen in a theater - complete with "pan and scan". The sound was equally bad - a particularly awful flaw for a movie so heavily reliant on singing.

[Singing? In a war movie? Yes, singing in a war movie. Think "Welsh Choir meets Ladysmith Black Mambazo." But it fits - and really works. You have to see and hear it.]

At the local Circuit City yesterday, I spotted a Zulu DVD on the shelf... but it was different. This one was from MGM Studios - and at $10, worth picking up just on the off chance that it was better than what I already had.

Oh, yeah. Clean clear widescreen video - possibly remastered, but more likely taken from a clean print of the film. The audio was spectacular - I kept hearing things in there that I'd never heard before. Bear in mind that this is one of my all-time favorite films - I know it backwards and forwards... or I thought I did, at any rate. Add to that a bit of hearing loss I've suffered since 1988; the fact that I'm hearing new things speaks very well of this edition of the film.

Go. Buy. Now.

[Diamond Entertainment execs still deserve assegais in their chests for producing what has become my newest coffee-mug coaster.]

Buried Treasure

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How to put closure to last week? Something to tie together a hurricane and pirates...?

Heh. I found it.

While preparing for what I assumed to be the inevitable long-term power outage, I made plenty of ice (empty 2-liter Diet Coke bottles are darn handy) and transferred the contents of the indoor freezer to the chest-type freezer in the garage (yes, that freezer. Trust me - it's better now.)

I really wanted to save as much as I could, even though what was in the freezer was of no particularly great value - frozen veggies, various sausages, chicken breasts....

And....

Buried deep in the back of the freezer... a pack of filet mignon. Four of them, which I'd cut myself from a whole beef loin bought on the cheap, back around March.

Beautiful, tender, savory filets. 2-inch thick filets, perfectly preserved. Can you guess what I'll be having for dinner tonight?

Thanks, Isabel.

Buried treasure.

'vast there, ye lubbers!

Ferget ye not that today be Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Yo, ho, yo, ho....

Battle of France

After watching the gutsy and inspiring film Battle of Britain, I got to wondering if there might be any such film about France. They really need an inspiring film to redeem their (deservedly) tattered reputation.

Battle of France? No such creature. But there was, to my surprise, a movie named Battle of Paris, an inspiring tale of valiant French arms fighting a desperate battle against the Nazi onslaught.

Well, no, not quite...

Actually, it's a musical from 1929, alternately titled "The Gay Lady."

There's a double meaning in there, somewhere.

DV-Do and DV-Don't

The TV aspect of the cable system in my area - the entire county, apparently, and perhaps beyond - went out last night, and is still out. My cable modem is fine. Odd.

So I popped a newly-acquired copy of Battle of Britain (1969) into the DVD player. I'd owned a VHS copy of the movie since I bought my first VCR in Korea in 1988 - it was the first movie I bought - and it is by far the most frequently-viewed film in my collection. The wear on the tape was really showing, so I ordered a DVD replacement, which sat on the shelf for two months before I watched it.

I've replaced a fair amount of my VHS collection with DVD, with mixed results. Many older films make good use of the DVD format - crisp clean images, excellent sound, and occasional bonus features. Others... well, others seem to have been rushed to the marketplace, made from any old print of the film on hand, and have no qualitative advantage whatsoever over their VHS predecessors, and are sometimes actually worse.

I started the movie... it was absolutely beautiful. The video was as clean as I've ever seen, the sound much richer than the VHS. The flying and aerial combat scenes were magnificent - far better than I remember the tape being, even when it was new. (And there is very little that will make me drool quite so much as a Spitfire.) The subtitles for the German dialog have been re-done, and included much dialog that had been ignored in the original.

[I don't know what some of those reviewers at Amazon are thinking. I've seen both the VHS and DVD versions, and the DVD is far superior.]

The movie has the additional virtue of being a true story, recorded on film at a time when a great many of the participants in the historical event were still alive. Many veterans - British and Germans, both - assisted with its creation. There's no historical revisionism going on in this film. (Oliver Stone, take note.)

Watching it was like seeing an old "tee-shirt & jeans" friend neatly turned out in Sunday-best clothes.

...

Oh, and... whoever put the DVD version of Zulu on the market needs an assegai stuck squarely into his chest.

I swear, honey, it wasn't me!

A new victim on which to place the blame next time you... well, you know.

Heh. Now maybe the dog will forgive you for all the times you blamed him.

Tools of the Trade

Is world conquest your gig?

- When you go home from the office, do you wish it were a Subterranean Island Base with optional Volcano Upgrade instead of a crappy apartment?

- Would you prefer to drive yourself home in your "Li'l Crusher" Economy Mobile Offensive Unit, or is being chaufferred in your SPV Advanced Armored Vehicle more your style?

- Do you dream of outfitting your henchmen with Exploding Obedience Collars?

- Is your concealed-carry weapon of choice a Gizesukarisito Mark 1 Multidimensional Handcannon?

- Does nothing get you quite as squishy as the prospect of owning your very own Morbitek Zombification Ray (Mk 1)?

- And when you're down and out, do you dwell on ending it all with a Planet Kabanger?

If so, then Villain Supply may just be your one-stop shopping center!

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