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20 favorite movies since 1980
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  xSaturday, August 23, 2003

happy birthday... me. To celebrate, here's a recent photo.

Update: Although most of the events of the day revolved around my wife's grandmother's funeral, my lovely wife and I managed to get out late yesterday evening for a quick commemoration. I don't know Orlando at all, and things have changed since my wife lived here. However, by incredible good fortune we stumbled across the swankiest spot in town last night. It was an upscale Asian eatery called The Lemongrass Bistro, which advertised live jazz on its marquee. Inside we were greeted and seated near the bar, and served by an enthusiastic, bespectacled young woman named Elizabeth. We enjoyed drinks -- Wild Turkey for me, a glass of wine for my wife -- cappucino and dessert. Elizabeth cheerfully approved of each of our choices and told us with pride how she was finally able to get the cappucino machine to froth milk properly. The entertainment was excellent; a very talented young singer performed, accompanying herself on a black Fender Telecaster. It was a very relaxing and ritzy occasion, and a perfect way to celebrate. We felt very lucky to have discovered such a swank venue for our date in the midst of a strange city.

Update 2: Many thanks to Jeff Cooper (who's been blogging up a storm lately) and Jaquandor for the birthday wishes!

  xFriday, August 22, 2003

temporarily offline

My lovely wife and I are visiting her family in Orlando, Florida, to attend her grandmother's memorial service. Needless to say, blogging will be light throughout the weekend and for most if not all of Monday, especially as we're connecting via a 33.6 modem on an extremely slow computer (not that I'm complaining; I'm glad to be getting online at all).

The flight was uneventful. In fact, we enjoyed the easiest transfer I've ever experienced in my entire life. Normally when we haved an hour between planes, the flights are all the way across the terminal; sometimes even in different concourses. And the last couple of times, of course, we've been dragging toddlers and their abundant attendant paraphenelia. (M4d props to my lovely wife, who managed the feat all by herself on her recent trip.) This time, thouhg, we get off the flight, take a few steps forward, and I look up from my itinerary asking, "now where's this flight..." -- and there it was. The gates were not 20 yards apart. Better still, there was a little pizza restaurant/bar right next to it, so we were able to enjoy some 'za and a b33r and relax for a while before boarding. It was absolutely the most pleasant transfer ever.


milestone of the day

Earlier today, while my lovely wife and I were flying to Orlando, the hit counter passed 39,000. Thanks for visiting!

...and while I celebrate this incredibly modest occasion, congrats to CalPundit for his one year blog-aversary and millionth hit.

  xThursday, August 21, 2003

matrix revolutions trailer released

Go. Now.

(via FARK; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


it seems...

This site is certified 43% EVIL by the GematriculatorThis site is certified 57% GOOD by the Gematriculator

(via Geisha asobi blog)



robotic alchemical drive

As I mentioned earlier, I got a package from Musashi yesterday. In addition to the cards, it contained a rare copy of the PS2 mecha game Robot Alchemic Drive.

Although I've been resolute about putting the stuff I've bought for my birthday away until the day itself, since I'll be out of town with no PS2 access until at least Tuesday, I decided to give it a spin. Well...

Sweet merciful crap!!! I love it! It's mecha-rific! The idea that you play a person controlling the robot with a PS2 controller is just hilarious. The perspective of watching the mech in third person from a distance (hopefully -- get too close and you can get hit by the robots' attacks, bruised by falling debris, or even stepped on!) really brings home the idea of scale. You can even perch on the robot's shoulder!

Controlling the robot is unusual but easy. One uses the gamepad's shoulder buttons to control the feet; to walk, one alternates L1 and R1 in a rhythmic pattern. (Try not to step on too many of the Japanese civilians fleeing in terror...) The joysticks control the robot's arms; rotating them throws a variety of punches, and pushing them in reveals an arm-mounted super weapon! The various buttons unleash laser or missile attacks.

The variety of movies -- Ultraman-style judo chops, uppercuts, missiles, lasers, and super charge attacks -- are sweet and yet fairly easy to pull off. The first couple of missions are easy even if you just flail away at the enemy.

On the downside, the game features some of the worst voice acting this side of Resident Evil. This is one game I wish had a Japanese language track. I also don't care much for the story mode. There are missions where you don't pilot the robot at all, which is the complete *opposite* of what I want to be doing. I wish there were some sort of "instant action" mode (like the PSX Mechwarrior game had), but I'll have to see what the replay system is like. Still, I can hardly wait to play it again. Look for a more thorough review at Destroy All Monsters once I've given the game a thorough workout.

road to perdition

I also picked up a used DVD of The Road to Perdition for a mere eight bucks yesterday; last night my lovely wife and I watched it. We both enjoyed it. It's based on the Max Allan Collins comic, which is itself based on the manga and movie series Lone Wolf and Cub. We especially enjoyed Tom Hanks being cast against type as the grim hit man. Again, I plan to review the film, but in the meantime, here's an article Musashi wrote on the movie's manga influences.

Update: Byzantium's Shores notes that it beat me to the punch with a review.


thoroughly disgusting

I've spent some space here ranting about the recent odious suicide bombing in Iraq. I've also mourned the toll Bush's war in Iraq took on the lives of innocent children. But I've only tangentially expressed my disgust, sorrow and horror at the many victims of Tuesday's bus bombing in Jerusalem, many of whom were children. That isn't an indication of any dismissal of the pain and suffering this louse inflicted, but rather a sense of profound sorrow, regret, and helplessness. Still, I wanted to make clear for the record that the Jerusalem bombing is just as bad -- indeed, worse -- than the other tragedies I've ranted about.

According to reports, the bomber was a husband and father. As a father myself, I simply can't fathom the unspeakable evil of a man who boards a bus full of kids knowing he'll detonate a bomb in their midst. There are no words adequate to describe this outrage.

With the cycle of violence in the Middle East once again seeming to spiral out of control, my attitude increasingly becomes "a plage o' both your houses." I have no idea what the answer is, but I think it's been amply demonstrated that violence isn't it -- whatever the justifications, it certainly isn't a solution. Yes, Israel has a right to security, and yes, the Palestinians have a right to their own state, but I've basically had it with both of them.


anime link of the day

In the rant space accompanying yesterday's MegaTokyo comic, Piro revealed that his first exposure to anime was remarkably similar to mine:
People sometimes ask me what my first 'anime' was. Truth be told, it was probably something like Speed Racer or Star Blazers when I was a kid, but to me that doesn't really count. The first 'anime' I ever watched was in the form of two VHS tapes rented from a local video store, things I rented because I was bored and I wasn't really sure what to expect. 'Project A-ko' and 'Urusai Yatsura' volume 1. It wasn't really these tapes the led to my downfall, but a small advertisement at the end of the Urusai Yatsura tape promoting a show called Kimagure Orange Road. That small bit of tape was enough to start me on the long downward spiral.

Funny thing is, these shows that I liked so much had existed for years, yet because I didn't know they existed, I didn't have a chance to find out about them until much later. Often we are separated from the things we enjoy experiencing not by lack of access, but lack of information. How many things have you enjoyed recently that may have existed and been available for months or even years? It all comes down to knowing about things.

Compared to when I first started collecting anime (just before AOL connected itself to the Internet, if that tells you anything) I just have one thing to say - you people are friggin SPOILED. :P Nevermind digisubs and the ability to watch fansubs of shows often less than a week after they air in Japan (fansubs used to not surface until months after a show first aired) just the selection of Anime DVDs to choose from today is mind boggling. When I started collecting, the anime section of the Suncoast was one small rack of about 30 tapes. Next time you feel like whining that the next DVD in some favorite series you are watching wont come out for another month - waaah, suck it up. :P

...not that it's all that shocking; Piro and I are roughly the same age, and that's pretty much what was available back in the late '80s/early '90s. As I mentioned in my "five questions" the other day, Project A-ko was one of the first touchstones in my college-era rediscovery of anime. I also found Kimagure Orange Road, not through a preview but because the local video store stocked the OAVs. I think I'd seen it mentioned in the online anime pocket guide. In any case, I checked out pretty much everything the local indie video store had, which wasn't much (no Urusei Yatsura, for example; in some ways, my knowledge of old-skool anime has some major gaps. I still haven't seen an episode of that series).

Project A-ko was fun -- super-powered high school girls and giant robots. Bubblegum Crisis was darker and more edgy, with some great battlesuit mecha action. KOR, though, gave me a different perspective on what anime could be. A romantic comedy, it also featured super powers of a sort -- the protagonist, Kyosuke, comes from a family of psychics who must conceal their abilities. But it's mostly about the classic romantic entanglement, a love triangle. Kysouke is smitten by the proud and unruly Madoka, but he's too hesitant -- and intimadated -- to be direct with her about it. Madoka's best friend Hikaru is in love with Kyosuke and appoints herself his girlfriend. Madoka shares Kyosuke's feelings, but is too proud to let down her guard, and doesn't want to hurt her friend's feelings. And to top it all off, the indecisive Kyosuke also likes Hikaru to some degree; when he feels discouraged about his chances for wooing Madoka, he feels that dating Hikaru wouldn't be so bad. Kimagure Orange Road was one of the first series to present something other than the fighting robot style of anime I'd becomed accustomed to (another was the superb and sweet Oh! My Goddess!).

Piro's point about information is also well taken. As I indicated, the vast amount of information on the Internet really led to the explosion of my interest in anime. And the amount of information available now is truly astounding. I was never much into fansubbed VHS, but I have a number of digisubs. It's incredible, being able to watch brand-new stuff (or being able to watch stuff I already have on VHS or DVD in a more portable format -- as is my philosophy with MP3s, I see nothing wrong with having a copy of something I've already paid for. I could make the copy myself; the digisubber simply saves me the trouble, and if he or she is willing to do so for free, who am I to argue?).

Piro also has some DVD recommendations; I can second his approval of the Fruits Basket series. And yes, I wish AnimEigo would release the KOR OAVs on DVD as tapes are starting to wear a bit thin.


flash mobs in the news

The Washington Post takes a look at the hi-tech pastime of "flash mobbing."


good news

M4d props to Musashi, who leaves the ranks of the unemployed today.

And warm thanks for the birthday card, gift, and the sypmathy card, while I'm at it.

  xWednesday, August 20, 2003

a random thought

I've always thought one of the funniest things about the Austin Powers movie was that Michael York's character -- Austin's agency superior who gives him his briefings -- is named "Basil Exposition."

In a similar vein, one of the many entertaining elements of Neal Stephenson's excellent sci-fi novel Snow Crash is the main character's name: Hiro Protagonist. (Say it out loud...)


drama in real life redux

More bear attacks in the news: The Mainichi Daily News reports on a 63-year-old Kanagawa man who successfully warded off a bear attack by serving up a judo throw.

A man used a judo throw to scare off a bear that attacked him while he was picking mushrooms on a Nagano Prefecture mountain Monday afternoon, police said Tuesday.

At around 3:50 p.m., Keiichi Yamaguchi, 63, a resident of Matsuda, Kanagawa Prefecture, was picking mushrooms on a mountain in Omachi, Nagano Prefecture, when an Asiatic black bear suddenly attacked him, police said.

The bear bit Yamaguchi on the hand and left thigh and he responded by hitting it on the nose and in the stomach. When he used a judo technique to hurl the bear, it ran away from the scene. The bear was about 170 centimeters long, police said.

Yamaguchi said his injuries are not serious, but he intends to receive medical treatment at a local hospital.

Mad Bear Style! Excellent!

(via FARK; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


orca lite

This is bizarre; it reads like a bad movie:
A British family's holiday was rudely interrupted when a 30-foot (nine-metre) whale crashed onto their sailing boat off the east coast of Australia, media has reported.

The 10-ton humpback whale leapt out of the water and pulled the rigging and mast along with it as it slid down the boat.

"I was below deck when there was a hell of a crash from port as it leapt out of nowhere," said Trevor Johnson, who was on the boat with his wife, two sons and a son's girlfriend.

"It's amazing that no one was hurt or killed, but it was a terrifying experience," he told The Daily Telegraph.

The boat was 10 miles away from the shore and the radio equipment did not work.

They were eventually towed to dry land after using a mobile phone to ring for help.

(via FARK)


benighted legislature

According to the local paper, Indiana will continue to refuse to acknowledge Daylight Savings Time.


my gift wish

Amy at Political Aims had just the kind of attitude as a teenager I hope Cecilia and Naomi do:
[H]ere's my confession: I was a completely abnormal adolescent girl. I managed to make my way through all of my teen years with very high self-esteem and confidence. Mostly because I was a bit delusional. In a good way, mind you. Even though I had braces for many of those years and unfortunate bangs and very little sense of fashion and a fondness for purple eyeliner, I was convinced that I was beautiful. When I looked in the mirror, I usually smiled at myself and thought, my, isn't she attractive? The fact that I wasn't homecoming queen material or that my first date came just months before I graduated didn't bother me. I just thought it was weird that other people didn't seem to realize how pretty I was. But it wasn't me -- something was clearly wrong with them. In fact, when classmates approached me at our ten-year reunion to tell me, with apparent surprise, how stunning they thought I looked, I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "But I've always been beautiful! Good lord, you people are slow on the uptake."

You can't legislate that kind of mindset. You can't even really foster it through parenting. My sister and I grew up in exactly the same environment and yet she managed to internalize basic social rules of which I remained blissfully unaware. Again, in my delusional world, the fact that I was attracted to boys who were smart and talented led me to the conclusion that the smarter and more talented I was, the more attractive I would be to the opposite sex. This line of thinking clearly violates the universal rule of female adolescence, which states that there is an inverse relationship between a girl's intelligence and her popularity. Indeed, my sister, who went to great pains to hide her brilliance, had a much more successful social life than I did.

Yet I wouldn't do anything differently. And I fervantly hope that I have daughters who turn out to be just like me. Not because I come anywhere close to being perfect, but because I enjoyed an innocent adolescence, full of like-minded girlfriends and free from peer pressure and self-doubt, emerging with the conviction that I was an amazing person who could do absolutely anything. If that's abnormal, then thank god I'm not normal.

Bravo, Amy.

Perhaps one can't foster such a healthy mindset through parenting, but I'm still sure as heck going to try.


swank link of the day

Say hello to the Swanky Conservative!

Update: ...and thanx for the hello back!


a sad passing

My friend Dodd informs me that the Louisville landmark independent book store Hawley-Cooke is finally being sold to national chain Borders. I've always enjoyed patronizing Hawley-Cooke; my lovely wife and I often make a point of stopping by when we visit Louisville, and indeed, we'd often reserve our book-buying binges for just such an occasion.

Of course the business world is changing, but it's truly sad that even a city as quirky and cosmopolitain as my beloved home town can't support a popular independent book store. Dodd's sorrow at the loss of this little bit of independence and individuality is shared and appreciated. For my part, I feel that such regret is felt by someone -- many people -- every time a local spot falls to the chains. The owners and staff of Hawley-Cooke have my congratulations and thanks. I hope I can visit one last time.


horror movie of the day

Via CalPundit, CBS News footage (RealMedia Player required) of yesterday's suicide bombing of UN headquarters. It seems a cameraman was attending a briefing of some sort when the blast hit. What follows is about five minutes' worth of confused and chaotic footage of frightened victims and walking wounded (Jeez, but head wounds bleed a lot) stumbling out of the building, screams of panic, angry officials demanding the camera be turned off, and the badly injured being carried out of the rubble. As CalPundit describes it, "[N]ot for the squeamish, but if you want to know what it's like being in the middle of a suicide bombing, this is (hopefully) as close as you'll ever get."

The shambling, dazed, bloody survivors stumbling uncertainly out of the rubble reminded me for all the world of a zombie movie -- but this time, the monsters are the ones who perpetrated this outrage. I'm sure the aftermath of the suicide bombing in Jerusalem looked much the same (indeed, one eyewitness described it as being "like a horror movie"). There's simply no justification for this digsuting slaughter.

And speaking of disgusting, the undisguised glee with which some bloggers greeted this tragic event is reprehensible beyond words. Anyone who approves of the kind of horror and suffering this video shows -- whether or not in the same of some warped notion of "patriotism" -- is scarcely better than the scum who perpetrated it.

Horror movies have a tendency to desensitize their viewers. I can certainly attest to the fact -- I can happily devour gruesome Italian zombie flicks that yeas ago would have given me nightmares. Indeed, I credit a steady diet of the fare with being able to tolerate witnessing my lovely wife's Cesarean section. Cecilia's birth was a magical moment, but the preliminaries were not at all for the squeamish. I kept reminding myself that I'd seen worse, but knowing it was real made it small comfort.

After all, there's always the realization that what one sees on the screen isn't real; that those are actors and stunt people. (In the documentary accompanying the DVD of the excellent indie zombie flick The Dead Hate The Living, lovely actress Jamie Donahue chats cheerfully about her role in an inteview obviously shot moments after she'd wrapped a scene; she's splashed head to toe in stage blood.) What happened in Baghdad and Jerusalem was no movie, no video game; as the disturbing footage reminds us, those were real people, and some of them are gone forever. There's simply no call to celebrate -- or even joke about -- such a tragic event.

Update: If you can't watch the clip, Josh Marshall has a good description.

Update 2: Shockingly enough, I agree with John Cole across the freakin' board:
1.) I am even more convinced that people who think anything of this nature is a cause for celebration need to think about their remarks. Misha at the AI Rottweiler has been widely assailed for his flip and inappropriate remarks, yet sees the UN as a target of terror as poetic justice. There is simply no reason for celebration, and I gain little satisfaction in any 'irony' that may have been created by the attack. This was simply devestating and awful- those are real people bleeding and traumatized for life in that video- not just UN employees.

2.) Why, in events like this, when there is a cameraman filming, do you always hear people yelling for them to turn the camera off? It needs to keep rolling- people need to see this sort of thing.

3.) The guy at the beginning of the video yelling to keep everyone calm deserves a medal. [Ed: Amen, brother!] Human responses to events like this are utterly unpredictable, but thank goodness there is always one person around who manages to keep his/her head. The benefits of training and instinct, perhaps.

4.) I am shaking with anger.

Update 3: Bravo to Tacitus, as well:
On the subject of the bombing of the UN compound, let me also say that a great deal of the rhetoric coming from the blogospheric right -- mostly from self-described "anti-idiotarians," which is a self-nullifying label if there ever was one -- was a pathetic disgrace. If your first reaction was to crow about it, or to whip up a monologue on the irony of it all, you have my pity. I spent part of my day yesterday drafting condolence letters to the families of the dead; let me assure you that whatever the glaring flaws of the United Nations, those folks there were doing more for a free Iraq than you and I hunched behind our terminals stuffing our faces with Cheetos. So quit with that crap.


book reviews

I mentioned in my Five Questions segment that I hadn't linked the last couple of book reviews I'd written for BookPage. In June I contributed a review of the thriller Due Preparations for the Plague to its summer reading list (scroll down), and this month my review of the novel Coiled in the Heart appeared.

That reminds me, I need to see if I can review anything else for them. As I've said, the reviews don't pay much, but they're fun, give me some decent reading of brand-new books and do afford some DVD funds.



My lovely wife and daughters are back home. Their flight got in late yesterday evening. By the time we arrived at the house, Naomi was asleep in the car seat and barely woke up as I changed her diaper and put her to bed. Cecilia was happy to see downtown Indianapolis as we drove by; she knew she was home.

When we got home, the Godzilla toy I got Cecilia was waiting for her on top of the newel post, holding a little sign that said "For Cecilia." She was very happy and excited to have her own Godzilla toy, and was only dissuaded from taking it to bed with her with difficulty.

It's wonderful to have them all home. Temporary bachelorhood had its appeals -- I watched more horror movies than I usually do -- but it also confirmed how happy I am to be a family man.

  xTuesday, August 19, 2003

twenty five questions

Jaquandor at Byzantium's Shores is participating in a kind of blogger interview project. He answers a set of five questions submitted by a reader, and then offers to ask five others to any volunteers. I did so, and so without further ado, here are the questions. If anyone would like me to offer up some inquiry in this fledgling tradition, leave a comment or email me.

  1. Why the "Swank" theme, with martini glasses and such?

  2. I've always dug retro/lounge culture, for a number of reasons. Part of it's due to my love of old movies; I've just always had an affinity for skinny ties, Art Deco furnishings, and the effortlessly cool and gentlemanly air of '50s Hollywood. Also, I've always enjoyed that music known to some as "lounge" (long before the flick Swingers came out and a generation of poseurs discovered that martinis are too strong a drink for them) and retro style elements.

    In addition, for a long time I was the lone bachelor among my group of friends, and I enjoyed playing the role by wearing -- or at least owning -- smoking jackets, listening to retro music, keeping a well-stocked bar and using the cocktail mixer at any opportunity. I still have my bar although I don't use it as often -- it's a lot easier to just open a beer. And I have a tiki and a lava lamp in my cubicle even now.

    When I was first considering launching a blog, I didn't want to have it be expressly political (although obviously, I wasn't too successful at avoiding it), but rather be a celebration of all the cool stuff I found wandering the Internet. "Swank" is my catchall adjective for anything cool, jazzy, offbeat, funky, retro, and otherwise appealing, so "Planet Swank" was born.

  3. When did your fascination with anime and Japanese pop-culture begin?

  4. Thanks for not asking "what's the deal with the Asian women?," but it turns out the answer is much the same. My fascination with Asian culture probably has its roots with my father, who is a professor of Japanese theater and who brought back a lot of interesting art, toys and whatnot from his Army stint in Southeast Asia. But it really took hold thanks to the then-independent TV channel 41 in Louisville, Kentucky. Back before Fox Network and cable, as you know, independent TV had to offer the cheapest product available, and that meant lots of Japanese imports. Speed Racer and Ultraman on weekday afternoons, and on Saturdays a never-ending parade of kaiju flicks, kung-fu pictures, old science fiction and horror films. (Channel 41's programming also helped inspire Teleport City's Keith Allison.)

    I'm also sure my, ah, appreciation of Asian women has its roots in my youthful crush on Ultraman's ultra-cute Fuji of the Science Patrol.


    When I got to college, I began playing BattleTech. Although I'd never watched its anime inspiration Robotech, I recognized its big-damn-robot origins. Around that time, AnimEigo had released a couple of OAVs that were available at my local indie video store, which also carried the insanely great Project A-Ko, so I started renting and watching anime again. I also got heavily into comic books in college, and it was a small jump from there to what manga I was able to find -- specifically Dark Horse's issue of Akira and a Golgo 13 book I was able to scare up.

    Of course, the Internet was another big influence; via Usenet newsgroups and -- since its infancy -- the Web, I was able to learn so much about anime and manga and even download GIF images of my favorite series.

    And the fascination continues today. Tracking down the in-jokes and references in the superb online comic MegaTokyo has introduced me to DiGi Charat, Excel Saga, Nadesico and other series I might not otherwise have learned about.

    I have to admit a certain bemusement at having seen many things I thought were my own obscure, private little joys -- anime, Hong Kong heroic gunplay movies, and the like -- have now become fairly mainstream; even Asian women seem to have become fashionable. I must admit that at times I have a snobbish regret at my "secret" being out, but then again it's pretty cool to be able to waltz into Best Buy and pick up anime and Asian action flicks. Dr. Freex of The Bad Movie Report has similar musings in the opening of his review of the excellent Mr. Vampire.

  5. Are you in your "dream career", or in a career of necessity right now? And if the latter, what is your "dream career"?

  6. I dig my job well enough -- after all, I got to build my own little swank lair in my cube -- but when I was younger, I wrote a magazine about Microsoft Flight Simulator. I'd have to say that was pretty much my dream career -- and why not? I got to indulge in my fascination for computers and aviation at the same time. The company even paid for some flight lessons, and I got to visit E3 and other trade shows. It was a sweet gig.

    That said, my dream career these days would be to make a living from the stuff I do for Destroy All Monsters. Who knows? Maybe Musashi and I will come up with something. As it stands, though, I'm pretty happy with where I am. Heck, in this economy I'm overjoyed to have a job that doesn't sux0rz too much.

  7. Your political outlook is pretty staunchly liberal. So, when is the last time you voted for a Republican, and why did you do so?

  8. Actually, the last time I voted Republican was in the last election. The judicial ballot had more open slots than Democratic candidates, so some of my votes went to Republicans and independents.

    However, having grown up in Kentucky, I used to make a habit of voting Republican for governor. Kentucky used to be pretty reliable about electing Democrats as Governor, which meant that the Democratic primary was really the race to watch. By the time I achieved voting age, though, I usually wasn't very happy with the candidate that emerged from the primary process, and so I'd usually vote Republican because 1) it expressed my dissatisfaction with the Democratic candidate and b) it'd have no actual effect on the outcome of the election. During my college years, though, Democrat Wallace Wilkinson -- a sleazy, corrupt guy who gave short shrift to higher education -- was running against Republican John Harper -- a sleazy, corrupt veteran state legislator who utterly charmed me by making no bones about being a sleazy, corrupt veteran state legislator and, tacitly admitting he hadn't a prayer of winning, made it his business to make Wilkinson's life on the campaign trail utterly miserable. That year, I voted for Harper enthusiastically.

    See? It does happen. But sad to say, I consider the recent behavior of the Republican Party leadership to be so odious, dangerous, and anti-small-d-democratic that I'm much, much less likely to vote Republican at all.

  9. You don't seem to blog about books much, but you're obviously a very literate person, so name three books that you'd really want to have with you on that proverbial desert island.

  10. You're right; I don't really know why. I haven't even linked to the last couple of book reviews I've written, and I ought to.

    Anyway, that's a really tough question, because I do love books and have a huge library that I'm very proud of. But here they are, in no order:

    • The Count of Monte Christo, because I'm rereading it now and I never seem to get tired of it. Also, because its tale of miraculous escape would give me hope of getting off that darn island (or finding fabulous treasure there, at least).

    • Watchmen (the collected graphic novel), by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. A tough choice between this and Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, but it gets the nod by being a complete collection.

    • Ha! This may be cheating, but this edition of three novels -- The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, and The High Window -- by Raymond Chandler (which, of course, leaves out everything else by Chandler, not to mention Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson, among others). If I had to pick one, it'd be The Big Sleep, because I could also fondly recall the Bogart film version that had so much cut out it made no sense at all, yet was so cool it didn't matter.

Thanks for the opportunity to share all this; I hope it's been enlightening.


redhead* of the day

gillian anderson

Ms. Gillian Anderson. More here and here.

(Shamelessly cribbed from Byzantium's Shores; of course I agree that she's much more beautiful than Britney Spears. Sorry, Oliver, but I don't find Ms. Spears to be all that.)

*If memory serves me right, Ms. Anderson is actually blonde, and dyes her hair. Who cares.


cheapo dvd post of the day

the dead hate the living dvd box

I was doing some research recently on Amazon for a revew I wrote for Destroy All Monsters, and noted that the DVD of the excellent independent zombie flick The Dead Hate the Living is a mere ten bucks. I picked it up more than a year ago for US$15 or $20, and was well pleased with the value, but this deal is too good to pass up. Here's a review at Cold Fusion Video Reviews and another at The Bad Movie Report.

Update: ...And speaking of zombie flicks, Cinescape notes that Anchor Bay is releasing a special edition of the third entry in George Romero's zombie trilogy, Day of the Dead.


obvious song*

Matthew Yglesias notes that InstaPundit cites approvingly a blog post essentially declaring that the truth of the conseravtive blogger's views are all "obvious." Yglesias points out that most of the cited points are actually quite arguable.

Jaquandor, who had an excellent rant about the abuses of the term "common sense" in political rhetoric, puts matters in the proper perspective:
Yup, it's another of those supposedly cute words whose meaning basically boils down to, "People who disagree with me don't merely disagree; they are actually delusional for not endorsing what's obvious." Oh, and it's an ugly word, to boot. What is it with making up new, ugly, and pretty-much-dumb words like "Obvioust" and "Idiotarian"? Doesn't our English language afford people enough words to express themselves?

Perhaps it's just that rather than supporting their ideas with reason and evidence, some who are either intellectually lazy or intellectually dishonest simply want to declare vast realms of dispute out of bounds with the declaration that it's "obvious." Not even high school debaters could get away with such a lame trick; to the contrary, it would just highlight the weakness of their position.

Update: Pandagon has a pretty good parody.

*That's the title of a Joe Jackson tune.



Jaquandor explains the origin of his handle, and reveals yet another thing he and I have in common: we're both faculty brats.


bush booster apologizes

Via Interesting Times I note that James C. Moore, co-author of "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W.Bush Presidential," wrote an op-ed for Buzzflash apologizing for his voting for Bush.
I bear some personal guilt for what is happening to our country. Frankly, like a lot of Americans, I got had. George W. Bush’s policies are so astoundingly radical, and his politics so amazingly cynical, that he is not only harming our government for decades to come, he and Karl Rove are robbing Americans of what little faith they had left in the democratic process.

Bush and Rove are deploying a political style that transcends cynicism. They have begun a new American campaign, where the only constituency of merit is the gigantic corporation, which supplies the money for an overwhelming marketing campaign. The president is now, more than ever in our history, a product to be branded and sold. Unfortunately, there is no lemon law governing the presidency. We can't get our money or our votes back when we discover we’ve bought something defective. We’re stuck until the next election.

This approach works because Mr. Rove relies on Americans to be too busy with their daily lives to pay attention to the details. The president can land on an aircraft carrier, and comport himself as a warrior leader without fear of accusations of hypocrisy because the media has been cowed, and the public has a short memory. George W. Bush avoided combat in Vietnam by using family privilege, and connections, and then disappeared from his champagne flight unit for the last two years of his hitch. Had our soldiers in Iraq been as capricious about their commitments to America, what might have happened? Yet he dared to stand in their honored midst and suggest to us that he was one of their number. Rove was right. We weren't listening.

Our troops now move around Iraq, their lives potentially jeopardized by every person passing on the street, and the Bush White House quietly is cutting both their combat pay and family separation allowance. A modest monthly stipend of $150 was raised to $225 for "imminent danger" pay, and is being reduced to its original level. The family separation payment of $100 a month was raised to $250, an amount designed to help families pay bills while their soldiers are off working for America. But Mr. Bush is planning to cut that figure back to its original level.

As the first shipload of soldiers was leaving from San Diego, California, the administration was pulling a federal supplement from local schools, which would harm education for the children of our troops. Because the San Diego Independent School District cannot levy taxes against federal property when students live on base, the government provides a payment to help the school district fund the education of the children of our servicemen and women. George Bush is eliminating this money. Ultimately, this means not only do the children of our military endure larger classes, less qualified teachers, and poor curriculum, so does everyone else’s child.

Perhaps, Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove are finally getting our attention.

I find it disturbing when the president can stand in front of television cameras, his crooked Texas smirk hiding his true character, and tell us he is worried about people without jobs and his tax cut will help them find employment. He says such things even as Nobel laureate economists are pouring ridicule over his policies and financial behemoths like Warren Buffet are scoffing. The photo-op presidency holds a news conference to sign the "Leave No Child Behind Act" with Sen. Ted Kennedy, and then guts $8 billion from its budget, after forcing federal mandates on schools with no money to pay for implementation. Sen. Kennedy, I’m afraid, got had, too.

There is neither time nor space to even begin to write of the Bush administration’s hypocrisies and deceptions. History will, eventually, conclude that his reckless taxation reduction and deficit increases, his disingenuous campaigning and rhetoric, imperialist foreign policies, and corporate greed moved America closer to its recessional from the grand stage of true liberty and equality. The only way to stop this cascade of wrongs is for voters to take their citizenship more seriously. Democracy only works when the electorate is vigilant, and informed. Rove knows we’re too busy worrying about jobs, mortgages, and lost retirement funds, to closely monitor the president’s work. He’s right. And George W. Bush is doing as he pleases, not as Americans prefer.

And because I voted for him, some of this is being done in my name.

Please forgive me.

Chris at Interesting Times welcomes the gesture but is less than fully satisfied:
[Y]ou bear a special responsibility because you are a journalist who covered Bush for years and you still got bamboozled.

Many of us who were amateur's at best in assessing the political scene could see the lie that was and is George W. Bush coming from miles away. Hell, I live all the way up here in Oregon and I could see Bush for what he was far better than you could who spent day after day covering the guy in close quarters.

I agree to an extent. Yes, Moore is not owning up to his full responsibility for the damage Bush is doing to this nation. But we ought to welcome those who see the light with open arms. Converts like Moore can be a stark reminder that Bush doesn't even deserve the credibility of a failed businesessman. And it's essential to give America's voters the information they need to conclude that not only is Bush not the straight-talkin' cowboy he pretends to be, but there's no reason at all to believe that any promise he makes is good.


more goalpost moving in iraq

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post continues his traitorous ([/sarcasm]) quest to hold Bush accountable for his statements:
President Bush, revising his earlier characterization of the fighting in Iraq, said in an interview released yesterday that combat operations are still underway in that country.

In an interview with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service given on Thursday and released by the White House yesterday, Bush interrupted the questioner when asked about his announcement on May 1 of, as the journalist put it, "the end of combat operations."

"Actually, major military operations," Bush replied. "Because we still have combat operations going on." Bush added: "It's a different kind of combat mission, but, nevertheless, it's combat, just ask the kids that are over there killing and being shot at."

In his May 1 speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, Bush declared: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country." The headline on the White House site above Bush's May 1 speech is "President Bush Announces Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended."

Since then, a search of Bush speeches on the White House Web site indicates, the president had not spoken of the guerrilla fighting in Iraq as combat until this interview; he had earlier spoken of the "cessation of combat" in Iraq.

A White House spokesman said Bush was not making a distinction between combat and military operations. "What the president declared on May 1 is that major combat operations were over," he said. "He did not say that combat was over."

The description of active combat in Iraq was one of several statements Bush made in the interview that differed with earlier administration positions as he discussed his foreign policy while visiting a military facility in Miramar, Calif.

Asked about U.S. force presence in Afghanistan, Bush said the U.S. presence is being "gradually replaced" by other troops.

"We've got about 10,000 troops there, which is down from, obviously, major combat operations," he said. "And they're there to provide security and they're there to provide reconstruction help. But both those functions are being gradually replaced by other troops. Germany, for example, is now providing the troops for ISAF [International Security Assistance Force], which is the security force for Afghanistan, under NATO control. In other words, more and more coalition forces and friends are beginning to carry a lot of the burden in Afghanistan."

In fact, the 10,000 troops in Afghanistan represent the highest number of U.S. soldiers in the country since the war there began. By the time the Taliban government had been vanquished in December 2001, U.S. troops numbered fewer than 3,000 in Afghanistan. And three months later, in March 2002, when the last major battle against remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda took place in eastern Afghanistan, about 5,000 U.S. troops were in the country.

Germany has participated in the 29-nation ISAF since January 2002. The 4,600 troops in ISAF provide security only in the Kabul area, and the United States, which is not part of ISAF, has operations throughout Afghanistan.

In the interview, Bush, asked about the burden on U.S. troops in Iraq, said other nations will be providing troops. "Polish troops are now moving in and will be in, I think, by September 4th of this year, which is in two weeks -- that's a major Polish contingent," he said. "There will be other nations going in to support not only the Polish contingent, but the British contingent."

The Poles have agreed to send 2,400 troops to lead a multinational division including 1,640 troops from Ukraine, 1,300 from Spain and smaller units expected from Hungary, Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mongolia and the Philippines. The Pentagon has agreed to pay much of the cost of the Polish troops.

CalPundit took note of the Afghanistan troop discrepancy, as well. In the comment thread, some of Bush's apologists try valiantly to defend the President, but they miss the point: Even if there's some charitable interpretation to Bush's revisionist history, it still goes to show that you simply can't trust anything the guy says.


let's get small

I neglected to mention last week that I gave platelets on Friday. One of the new questions they ask in their screening is if the donor has received a smallpox vaccination. This question made me wonder -- Like many people my age, I got a smallpox vaccinaction as a child (I have that little circular scar on my shoulder to prove it). So is the vaccination still good?

Apparently, it is.

More than 90% of people who received the smallpox vaccine 25 to 75 years ago show substantial immunity against vaccinia, the virus used in the vaccine, according to a report published in the August 17th online issue of Nature Medicine.

(Props to Joy for reminding me.)

  xMonday, August 18, 2003

video game post of the day

The entertainment portal presents its picks for the top 25 PlayStation games of all time, as of January 2002. It should come as a surprise to none that the awesome Metal Gear Solid took the top spot.

(Cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters, where there's a forum thread for discussion.


retro arcade flash game of the day

Pac-Man. w00t!

(via FARK)


welcome visitors from Confessions of a G33k. Sorry for the slow posting today, but there's plenty of stuff from previous days.


please stand by...

I'm finishing up a review for Destroy All Monsters. Posting will begin this afternoon. My apologies for the delay.

  xSunday, August 17, 2003


I just finished Onimusha 2. The game ends with three of the hardest, most annoying boss fights of any game this side of Metal Gear Solid (well, two and a half; you fight different incarnations of the main boss back to back, sort of like the triple play at the end of MGS). But the victory is sweet. And the game unlocks an insane amount of features upon victory -- no fewer than two mini-games (one in which the main samurai character runs around in a black suit, tie, sunglasses and hat whacking the undead samurai with a stick), a trailer for the third game, and a feature that lets the player see which of the story's branches he or she followed; the scenario feature gets updated in later games, so Onimusha 2 seems to have a lot of replay value.

I had figured on settling down with a couple of horror movies (my recent DVD of The Crazies and Lucio Fulci's Zombie), but I just got a hankering to play the game out. Not the only PS2 game I have uncompleted is Resident Evil Code Veronica X; since I seem to be in a zombie sorta mood, I may pick it up, or I may resume playing Final Fantasy VII, or both.

Update: As it turned out, on Sunday I dusted off my copy of Final Fantasy Tactics. After having devoted several hours to Onimusha 2 on Saturday, I needed something I could play in ten-minute increments.

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