Monday, August 31, 2009

C'mere, Bambi...

So Disney entertainment company bought Marvel Comics. I see some changes on the horizon.

Howard the Duck quack-fu's Donald's tail, swipes Daisy, kicks out Huey, Dewey and Louie and tells Uncle Scrooge he'd better start parting with some of that hoard if he knows what's good for him.

Charles Xavier decides Goofy must be a mutant, since the other main dog in the Disneyverse doesn't talk. Unfortunately, even the mighty brain of Professor X can't find a mind inside that simpleton's skull and he tricks Magneto into recruiting him, thus assuring his defeat.

It turns out that the high pitch of Mickey's voice is at the exact frequency that most irritates the Thing. Unable to stand the strain, the Thing utters his battle cry, "It's clobberin' time!" and steps on the mouse. Minnie mourns for a very short time before beginning moving in with Thor. Tongues wag. Carefully.

In a tragic (and messy) development, the world learns "Hulk hate flying elephants!"

Namor the Sub-Mariner begins an affair with Ariel, the no-longer-so-little-mermaid.

Several other Disney princesses, upon learning Fantastic Four heartthrob Johnny Storm is a bachelor, become contestants on the new VH-1 reality show "Carrying a Torch?" Depression among handsome bland princes skyrockets.

After learning about a little lady called Belle, Trish Tilby has some questions for Hank McCoy.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Now That's Cool!

Scientists took a picture of a molecule the other day, which is cool and not just because they had to drop the temperature to minus 268° Celsius to do it (Absolute zero, the coldest temperature possible and the point at which entropy is also zero, is minus 273.15° C). As the story shows, the actual picture of the molecule closely resembles the diagrams many of us had to learn how to do in chemistry class.

This is also a picture of something one-millionth the size of a grain of sand and the technical details of how they did it warm my geeky little heart.

Plus, we now have an actual visual representation of the movie-making talent of Rob Zombie, discussed in yesterday's post.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ah, Netflix!

So, the movie industry gave me some choices these past couple weeks.

First was Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, or however he wishes to misspell it. I debated whether or not I wanted to see this movie. On the one hand, I loves me some WWII action -- the good guys win and the bad guys get beat. Tarantino is also a filmmaker who has explored some very deep concepts in his weird way. He's not a film fan who happens to make movies, he's a movie fan who happens to make movies. Sometimes that produces exploration of heady concepts, like redemption in the story of Samuel L. Jackson's character in Pulp Fiction. Sometimes it produces neat modern glosses on an old-style story, like Jackie Brown. And sometimes it produces pure crap, like the Death Proof half of Grindhouse.

On the other hand, Basterds stars Eli Roth, a man whose movies are completely, utterly anti-human swill. Roth is responsible for the dumb as dirt Cabin Fever and the distilled repugnance of two Hostel movies. I've mellowed some, so I won't say that these movies offer convincing proof Roth has no soul, but I will say that his production of them and his so-far unseen repentance for them makes me unwilling to see anything connected with him (And yes, I know he made one of the fake trailers in Grindhouse -- which is why I didn't see it either). Scrape a penny with your fingernail and the resultant amount of copper under the nail is the maximum amount of currency I would spend on anything by or with Roth.

Two movies released this week required even less thought in deciding to skip them, although not as little thought as was involved in making them. Rob Zombie's continuing quest to prove he's as horrible a moviemaker as he is a musician continues as he releases Halloween II -- which is not a remake of the Halloween II that followed the original Halloween movie back in the late 70s. It is part of Mr. Zombie's original vision of the character, first brought out in his remake of Halloween released a couple of years ago. In other words, this movie is a sequel to a remake, but not a remake of the sequel. Using the word "original" in connection with this project tortures the English language worse than killer Michael Myers tortures his victims. Mr. Zombie says his next film will be a remake of The Blob, a movie which already has a lousy sequel and a lousy remake. He wants to do something different with it, though, saying that he has a "totally different take." Ah yes, we do love it when the jokes write themselves.

Also stinking up screens across America was The Final Destination, an interesting title for a move that's actually the fourth in its franchise. These movies operate on the idea that a group of people who were supposed to die in some kind of gruesome accident are warned away at the last minute by someone who has a vision of the disaster. The survivors are then stalked by death itself, apparently, slain in the order in which they would have died, usually via some Rube Goldberg-elaborate combination of horrible events. Wrap your head around that logic, if you can, but be sure to stock up on Tylenol first. In any event, this the fourth "final" destination, and it's in 3-D, which means it will not only be awful, you will have to wear geeky-looking glasses in order to experience the awfulness.

Meantime, thanks to Mr. Netflix, I watched El Cid and Double Indemnity.

Wish I could figure out why people don't go the the movies I could make a bundle.

A Sermon! A Sermon!

After a couple of weeks of repeats, there's a new one up on the sermon blog.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Another Resolution of Thanks

To: The Gentleman in the Locker Room at My Gym

WHEREAS, following your post-workout shower you chose to towel yourself dry not in the privacy of your shower stall but in the public space in front of your locker, and

WHEREAS, this locker was near to other persons, namely me, and

WHEREAS, said toweling was of an extremely thorough and personal nature that one could safely term "spelean," and

WHEREAS, said toweling was followed by the application of spray talcum powder to the now dry areas, and

WHEREAS, said application was not properly aimed, allowing for an overspray that spread through the air, actually blowing a nearby towel to the floor from its resting place on a bench,

BE IT NOW RESOLVED that, on this twenty-fifth day of August of the Year of Our Lord 2009, I shall offer you my thanks for helping me meet my weight-loss goals for the week by again making it impossible to keep any food down.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

You Keep Saying That Word...

This story about Toyota's reluctance to enter the all-electric car market is interesting.

The automaker says the technology for all-electric cars, which require no gasoline and which work on batteries that are recharged at a sort of plug-in station, is not yet at a place where it wants to try them out. Other people say Toyota is underestimating where the technology is now and where it will be very soon. I'll leave that discussion to the experts.

But, just as a note to Hiroko Tabuchi, the article's author. There are several places where Ms. Tabuchi says people who back all-electric vehicles prefer them to the hybrids that Toyota offers because even the hybrids use some gasoline to supplement the electric motors that run them at lower speeds. Because of their gasoline use, even hybrids "emit carbon." In fact, she says "emit carbon" twice. So the "environmental imperative" would suggest phasing out these carbon emitters for a set of wheels that puts out less carbon.

I may not have gotten a great grade in high school chemistry, but even I know that internal combustion engines do not emit carbon among their many exhaust gases. Carbon, in fact, does not boil and become a gas that can be emitted until temperatures reach 4,800° Celsius (8,600° Fahrenheit). It doesn't even melt until 3,600° C (6,500° F), long after just about any engine made would have turned into a puddle of slag. Carbon has the highest melting point of any naturally-occurring element, and is in the top ten in highest boiling points. It's mixed with other elements to strengthen them and provide materials that survive hotter temperatures. Carbon mixed with iron, for example, helps make steel.

Internal combustion engines do emit carbon dioxide, a gas made up of carbon and oxygen, which figures heavily in man-made global warming scenarios. But as any plant would tell you if it could, carbon and carbon dioxide are not the same thing. Maybe this is a quibble, but one would expect a business and economics writer for the New York Times to get basic, look-em-up-in-an-encyclopedia facts like the difference between carbon and carbon dioxide right, wouldn't one?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I've Got a Bad Feeling About This...

So the Army has developed recon robots that can patrol, avoid bumping into people and execute simple programmed tasks pretty much on their own, making simple decisions with onboard software. It executes its tasks with no human input. It's not a radio-controlled remote vehicle, but an actual robot that's moving and thinking -- although not at a very high level -- on its own.

This is a cool thing, because eventually the Army plans to supply troops in the field using similar devices. That reduces the number of folks exposed to enemy fire, and that reduces casualties.

BUT...the name given this robotic vehicle makes me nervous. As you read the story, you may have noticed that it's called the "T2." And as anyone who's watched one of the movies knows, robots that have model numbers that start with "T" are nobody's friends...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Alas, Zebulon!

Northeastern Oklahoma mourns as an icon passes.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bookage for the Book Age

Spy books on sale in the U.S. often focus on the work of U.S. or British agents thwarting the world's baddies, be they individual criminals or megalomaniacal creeps who want to take over the world so they can make it safe for pools of cuddly, lackey-disposing piranha. The Cold War offered plenty for those agents to do, and lately they've been able to get their secret agent groove on against terrorists of several stripes. Daniel Silva, though, has chosen to chronicle the career of Israeli clandestine operator Gabriel Allon, who also works as a restorer of Renaissance paintings. In The Defector, Allon must determine whether or not a Russian general he worked with in Moscow Rules has re-defected back to his homeland or was kidnapped. Silva pictures the Israeli secret agency as more ruthless than some of its counterparts in other nations, and Allon's origins in this work as an assassin make him more capable of brutality than most. He keeps the action humming and plots plausible, well away from Bond-style taking over the world stuff. Silva also gives his characters some depth, weaving their relationships with each other into the action and showing how it affects what happens.
Joe Pickett is a Wyoming game warden who has a knack for running across mysteries, killers, assassination plots and other assorted unpleasantness as he patrols the parks and back roads of that rugged state. C.J. Box writes Joe as a family man, in this outing wondering about the amount of time he has to spend away from his wife and daughters. His guilt mounts when his oldest daughter starts getting text messages from someone who says she is the foster daughter the Picketts cared for several years ago and who was thought killed when the white supremacist compound where she'd been taken was blown up. Whether the messager is who she says she is or not, she's definitely linked to some people driving across Wyoming doing some very bad things. The Pickett stories are usually good reads and Box does an excellent job putting us into the scenes of the Wyoming backwoods. He also mines Joe's unfamiliarity with the world of texting -- and his daughter's exasperation with that unfamiliarity -- for quite a bit of humor. But his villains are just ludicrous. A gangster father trying to reforge his relationship with his eco-warrior son by extorting or removing carbon dioxide producing offenders? Seriously? Joe's repeated refusal to work with other authorities becomes exactly that: repetitious. Box is a good storyteller, but this is an unfortunate low point in the Pickett series.
During the heyday of the Star Trek movies, Paramount's Pocket Books label published literally hundreds of books featuring the characters from the original series and its spinoffs. Unsurprisingly, many of them stunk -- partly because they were rushed into print, partly because many were written by green (inexperienced green, not Vulcan-blood green) authors who would work for cheap and partly because Paramount knew they had a core audience that would buy anything with a pointed ear on the cover whether it stunk or not. Market saturation dried up the stream of books a few years ago, and Pocket editors decided to exercise some more control over the material produced. Part of that was a conscious decision to move some of the series forward through their history -- the overstuffed and meandering Star Trek: The Next Generation series Destiny was one result. But it seems someone at Pocket also decided to put together stories about the original crew as they would have been during the span of the 1960s TV series, in stories such as Troublesome Minds. The Enterprise, entering a new star system, saves a single-person spaceship from destruction engineered by that person's own people. It seems this Berlis is a super-strong telepath in a race of telepaths and his will overwhelms any of his people who may be within his range. His people were trying to prevent that from happening, because a nearby race that had suffered the last time such a "troublesome mind" arose among Berlis' people had vowed their destruction if it happened again. Now Captain Kirk must decide how to prevent war between the two species and stop Berlis from mind-enslaving an entire planet, all the while wondering whether his trusted First Officer Spock, himself a telepath, is being influenced by Berlis as well. Author Dave Galanter has co-written some other novels in the Star Trek universe and knows the feel of a good ST yarn. This is his first original series novel and his first solo, and he does a good job of getting the well-known characters in proper voice and filling their accepted roles. Troublesome Minds doesn't make any monumental changes in the Star Trek universe or signal any watershed moments for the characters, even though they're tested to the limits in many ways. It's a good yarn and whiles away the time, surpassing the wealth of genre fiction that falls short of that modest goal. But asking more than that of a Star Trek book is like wearing a red shirt on an away team: It's a bad idea.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ah, Memories!

Not for me, of course. I was four and I was at the time of Woodstock and probably more concerned about the impending massive life upheaval the adults gave the impossible-to-say name of "kindergarten" -- "No, not garden, kindergarten with a 't.'" I remember this disappointed me, because my grandparents had a massive garden and it was fun, especially eating fresh peas right out of the pod.

Although, considering what I've seen in the film, pulling food out of the dirt probably happened at Woodstock as well, and what my sister and cousins and I did to Grampa's pea production might rival what those folks did to Max Yasgur's and the surrounding farms.

Anyway, you too can help celebrate "three whole days of love and peace and joy" by coughing up eighty big ones (sixty if you order online!) for the privilege. No word on whether or not they'll start giving them away free after the first few thousand people knock down the fence.

Friday, August 14, 2009

This Guy's a Character

John Quade, a man who made his living playing some seriously mean (and some hilariously mean) guys, passed away this week.

Quade's Internet Movie Database page shows literally dozens of roles in TV and movies. He almost always played a baddie -- usually, a southern authority figure who misused his power. His squinty eyes and nasally drawl made him seem to be designed to project ignorant, bigoted bullying.

It was all acting, of course. Quade was born in Kansas and grew up in Topeka, as midwestern as they come (played football and baseball and ran track). And he collected stamps and played chess. He was one of the workers who helped build parts of the Apollo mission landing modules that went to the moon.

Quade was an activist against the federal government, which he believed had migrated far from its original intent. In some Youtube clips of him speaking at different conferences, he speaks out against things like the 14th amendment and driver's licenses. He favored a concept called "allodial law," which denies a government's ability to take land by eminent domain or to tax its owners. Listening to the clips -- which is hard to do for long because some of Quade's reasoning is arcane and reminds you of your crazy uncle who thinks liberals like Andrew Jackson ruined this country -- you can tell Quade's regular speaking voice is standard accentless Middle America, and pitched a couple tones lower than a lot of his characters.

Being one of those character actors who played in pretty much everything and all, I wonder if St. Peter saw Quade coming and said, "Hey! It's that guy!"

PS -- The old Fametracker site people who collected character actor profiles for the aforementioned book somehow neglected to include Quade. Shameful oversight.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Resolution of Thanks

To: The ladies who rode an exercise bike and an elliptical machine next to me earlier this week at the gym.

WHEREAS, your discussion was conducted in voices that reached a significant square footage of a large workout room and,

WHEREAS, said discussion was concerned with extremely personal grooming matters and,

WHEREAS, said discussion also involved a catalog of similar grooming habits, observed and speculated upon, of several other individuals of both genders and,

WHEREAS, said discussion also involved several possible manners of display of said grooming habits, described in step-by-step detail,

BE IT RESOLVED that, on this thirteenth day of August of the Year of Our Lord, 2009, I wish to offer you thanks in helping me better my targeted weight loss goal for the week by making it impossible for me to keep any food down for several days.

Fifteen Books in Fifteen Minutes

One of those Facebook memes, which I can usually ignore but which sometimes have an irresistible hook in them. I now inflict it on those who read here, with minor alterations. The idea was that one would try to come up with 15 books that have "stayed with" you, but to not take longer than 15 minutes to come up with titles.

1. The Bible (Rather expected, I believe)

2. Taming a Sea-Horse, Robert B. Parker (The first book by Parker that I ever bought, I think. Picked up at Crown Books in Evanston, IL which is probably no longer there. The bookstore, I mean. Parker when he was on top of his form; he'd refined his style into its lean, muscular best but had yet to begin the recycling that weighs down most of his current work.)

3. The Stand, Stephen King (The earlier, edited and much better version. What a storyteller King was when he was good)

4. In Country, Bobbie Ann Mason (Every time I read this I discover another layer. It's sometimes lumped in with Bret Easton Ellis's Less Than Zero and Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City, also novels about young folks trying to find their way in 1980s America that were published at about the same time. Vastly superior to Ellis's unfocused blathering and McInerney's affected second-person weirdness)

5. Nine Days Queen, Mary Luke (Fictionalized bio of Lady Jane Grey, executed at 16 after her parents tried to set her up as queen of England in place of Henry VIII's daughter Mary. Strict biography readers balk at the way Luke theorizes inner dialogues and thoughts in people's heads, but it's a chilling true story about a young woman sacrificed at the altar of many others' ambitions)

6. Parliament of Whores, P.J. O'Rourke (Answers the question: What would "The Federalist Papers" have been like if the authors had been loopy Irish-American humorists. The title has a double-meaning. Maybe our legislators are indeed "whores," people who sell favors for money. But are we voters who put people in office based on how many goodies they promise us any different?)

7. Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brian (Stands in for the whole 20-book Aubrey-Maturin series)

8. Why Time Begins on Opening Day, Thomas Boswell (Although this collection of columns concerns ballplayers and teams that haven't played in more than 30 years, Boswell's discussion offers a convincing explanation of why time does exactly that)

9. I Was Right on Time, Buck O'Neil (A man of spirit, grace and wisdom tells his story. That he is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame makes the place's name less than meaningless)

10. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien (The standard which so many have failed -- and continue to fail -- so emphatically to meet)

11. A Wrinkle in Time, Madelaine L'Engle (Simple enough for kids, but great for adults)

12. A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs (Purple prose from a bygone day, one-dimensional characters and a predictable story; would have been an "airport read" if there had been airports in 1917. And it will keep kicking Dan Brown's ass every day until the heat-death end of the universe)

13. One More Time, Mike Royko (Stands in for all his books and columns)

14. The Real Jesus, Luke T. Johnson (Simple, masterful dissection of 95% of the kind of silly Jesus scholarship that Newsweek likes to write about every Easter)

15. Jesus: God and Man, Wolfhart Pannenberg (A theologian who takes history seriously, takes his faith seriously and takes science seriously. You may disagree with him if you work your way through this, but you'll have better reasons for believing what you do after you've sharpened them defending against Pannenberg's arguments)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Miss Manners Would Not Approve

I certainly sympathize with those who are attending various legislative "town hall" meetings to express their opposition to President Obama's proposed health care system reforms. The massive changes on the table are at best an expensive boondoggle and at worst a step on the road to a ruinous social change that might take decades to undo.

And the response of legislators to criticism of their work has ranged from tin-eared to insulting. The anonymous staffer who wrote the op-ed piece that went out under the names of top House Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer probably got an earful after using the phrase "un-American," even though he or she was referring to drowning out opposing voices, a tactic we as Americans probably object to pretty much across the board.

But the energy level of constituents in confronting their representatives has been a little high. My guess is that there have been far more sedate meetings than heated exchanges, but calm exchanges of ideas make poor video, so we hear about the shouting. Nevertheless, I think the shouting is out of line. Were I a legislator at such a meeting, I'd be clear. I'd stick around to talk to anyone and everyone who wanted to present ideas to me like a grownup would. But if you just want to yell? Buy a ticket to a ballgame and holler at the zebras for awhile, 'cause I'm outta here.

Yelling at people to get them to change their minds is ineffective, as we should have learned as teenagers. Rarely did our parents alter curfews simply because we confronted them with the same words at increased decibel levels. And by rarely, of course, I mean go to your room.

Granted, the behavior of some of the legislators at these events hasn't been particularly respectful either. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of Houston talked on her cell phone while a constituent asked her a question. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania told people at one of his meetings he "didn't have to be here" with them.

But still, high-energy confrontation is pretty useless. It lacks class, and it also demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding in the roles of the people involved. Remember, legislators are elected by constituents. They are then sent to various places of government to do jobs the rest of us don't want to do, like eat rubber chicken and kiss people's germy offspring and listen to each other talk. This means they work for us, and we are their bosses.

And yelling at the help? My goodness, that's just not the sort of thing our kind does, dear.

Monday, August 10, 2009

News-y Frying

Long post over at the long post blog, Deep Friared.

(Four hundredth post? I'm sure glad electrons are a renewable resource!)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Few Things Here and There

Spiked Online reviews a book by author Jeremy Taylor that addresses lots of common ideas about how similar human beings and chimpanzees are in their genetic makeup. He looks at the common observation that the two species share 98.4% of their DNA from the other end -- the 1.6% we don't share. Which ought to be common sense -- that 1.6% is why I am typing at this keyboard (and you are reading on your computer) and why chimps eat termites.

Malcolm Gladwell is always interesting, sometimes very insightful and every now and again stupid in a really big way.

As a pastor, I'll do a lot to help out my people. But I'll draw the line at marrying their horses.

The mayor of a town in Italy collected a little bit from the town employees and bought a lottery ticket. The key line: "Right now we think we have a better chance of winning SuperEnalotto than getting funds owed to us from the state."

I hate it when camels use my bathroom, but these Australians are serious about it...

Even in this economy, your home is your best investment...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

In Search of a Name...

The other night I -- for some reason that modern science cannot yet discover -- watched Comedy Central's compilation/promo show of the "most outrageous moments" of their Comedy Central Roasts. Since Joan Rivers will be roasted next weekend, the special serves to promote it as well as soak up airtime at very little cost.

Now, the thought behind the roast is that guests, many of whom will be the honoree's friends, co-workers, etc., will tell humorous stories about the honoree, some of which may not be true. They will also aim insults at the honoree and other guests. Most, if not all, of these comments will be the kind of thing that would draw an angry glare and maybe a poke in the mush if they were said outside of the context of the roast.

The New York Friars' Club and Harvard's Hasty Pudding theater group host well-known roasts. Dean Martin had a series of celebrity roasts in the 1960s and 1970s and if you want to watch them, my dad has the videotape edition of several. Which brings us to Comedy Central's program.

Never have I watched an hour of television that made me want to laugh less. The speakers had the insult part down, and the utter lack of restraint and good taste as well. But they'd overlooked the one thing I figured would be a no-brainer for a channel called Comedy Central: humor. I used to write for a newspaper and I wasn't always in the line of work I'm in now. I don't cover my ears and faint when I hear crude remarks or jokes. Say something that's vulgar and funny and I'm as likely to laugh as the next guy provided you haven't said it in an improper context, like in front of my mom.

But if these were the highlights of the Comedy Central Roasts, then sitting through an entire such event is the kind of thing that would make Tomás de Torquemada say, "You just can't do that to people." Relentlessly unfunny variations on jokes about genitals, sex habits, age, race, repeated ad homicidem.

The Bob Saget roast (no, I don't know why anyone would roast Bob Saget, unless we're speaking literally) featured dozens of jokes about Saget molesting the Olsen twins who played his youngest daughter on the show Full House. Everybody cracked up until they cried, because sexually assaulting children is funny! Oh, it's not? Well, someone will have to tell the couple hundred people who attended the Saget roast, then.

It also featured 78-year-old actress Cloris Leachman breaking up the crowd by declaring she was present not to roast Saget, but to have sex with his Full House costar John Stamos. She didn't say, "have sex with," of course, she used the one-word form that George Carlin pointed out can't be said on TV. Again, mighty were the guffaws of the crowd, because it's funny when dignified older ladies say the f-word! You remember how often Margaret Thatcher used to drop the F-bomb to keep Gorbachev laughing too hard to use his A-bombs.

Of course, humor is subjective. It's certainly possible that all of those people got the joke and I don't. But I'm pretty sure I've told a joke or two or gotten a laugh here and there over time, and I may have cracked maybe a couple of smiles during the entire show. So I'm in the hunt for a new name that Comedy Central can use for their roasts. They can keep the "roast" part, of course, but since "Comedy" implies that someone will say or do something funny, it's got to go.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sermon Time!

Actually, that will be tomorrow morning, but it's up on the sermon blog now.


During my time as an undergrad in Chicagoland, I first decided to try to be a loyal Wildcat and listen to my school's own radio station, WNUR (Northwestern University Radio, if you're curious). It was a short-lived experiment. WNUR was intentional about playing stuff no one had ever heard and only stuff no one had ever heard. I like a radio station that plays new things, but I also like hearing some things I've heard of before.

I toyed with a station called WLUP ("The Loop," which refers to Chicago's central downtown area), which at the time played a hard-rock format similar to the KMOD ("The Rainbow Station") I knew from my high school days. But WLUP was a little more metal-minded than my comfort level admitted, and my tastes were shifting somewhat anyway. Just as well, for The Loop would soon move to the "Classic Rock" abomination of a format that some dubbed "Radio Big Chill" after the early 1980s movie featuring a bunch of thirty-something baby boomers having a nostalgia weekend.

And then one day, sometime in October of 1982, I spun into 93.7 and heard, if I remember correctly, a Dave Edmunds song on the radio. Other than the quick cup of coffee his former band Rockpile's "Teacher Teacher" had with the Billboard charts (No. 51 in 1981), I'd never heard Wales' own king of retro on the airwaves and was astonished. What was this broadcast wonder?

I had found WXRT, "Chicago's Finest Rock." XRT, as we fans called it, played an eclectic mix of just about anything. Each weekday had a featured artist, who would be played a little more heavily that day -- the first of every month meant a trip to Laury's Records to pick up the new Featured Artists Card, which told you the featured artist schedule. Each Sunday had an hour-long live concert recorded at a Chicago venue, from just about any band you could think of. Some box somewhere in my house may still have at least a dozen cassette recordings of these Sunday Night Unconcerts (sponsored by 7-Up, natch) lingering in it.

XRT mixed new music by established artists, older music and brand-new stuff from unknowns in a fascinating gumbo. A friend described it as the station that played songs you wanted to hear but didn't know you wanted to hear until they'd played them. When my trips home for Christmas or the summer were via automobile, I'd leave the dial set there as long as I could possibly distinguish sound from static. On the way back I'd start checking 93.7 somewhere east of St. Louis until it finally came in.

Ye olde Pandora had been losing its luster -- unless you input some modern indie band, the site's ability to match styles and offer great variety wanes quickly. So on a whim I looked at XRT's website and discovered I can listen online. It's not exactly the station I remember. They've pulled back from the cutting edge stuff and have mixed in quite a bit more baby boomer nostalgia music than they did in my days glued to their setting. But they still have New Music Thursday and I heard more new-release stuff that interests me and a wider range of artists in five days than I'd hear in a month of OKC radio broadcasts.

Heck, last Saturday they played Lou Reed's 1984 release "I Love You, Suzanne." I'd forgotten how much I liked that song until I heard it -- hey, maybe XRT hasn't changed that much after all...