Thursday, June 30, 2011

Some Days...

I watched the Frito-Lay delivery guy at Wal-Mart sort bags of chips and stock them on the shelves, and thought, "I bet nobody ever expects him to fix everything that's wrong with their lives."

But this too shall pass.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It's a Little-Known Fact...

...that Cliff Clavin is the best actor in America, according to his scores and the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes.

John Ratzenberger, who played the postman who knew it all about nothing on Cheers, has the highest average score of any American actor, according to the article at The actual highest score is some French guy. Of course, Ratzenberger has voiced a character in every Pixar movie made so far, and those movies score really really well on RT's "Tomato-Meter" or movie review scoring aggregator.

The best actress overall is the Armenian-Canadian Arsinée Khanjian, who was born in Lebanon. The best American actress is Amy Madigan, helped by her work in RT favorites Gone Baby Gone and Field of Dreams.

One interesting fact is that, according to the compiled scores, the "most improved" actress is Dakota Fanning, who is all of seventeen years old. Apparently she's a much better actress than she was at 5 -- or at least she's in better movies. Dakota has had an easier road than her younger sister Elle, whose drop between the first movie she worked in (My Neighbor Totoro, 89) and the second (Daddy Day Care, 28) must have been rough. Especially since, according to the score generator Slate includes in the story, My Neighbor Totoro was released in 1988, ten years before the younger Ms. Fanning was born. The discrepancy is solved when we realize that she actually did the voice-over in the 2005 English re-dub of the Japanese animated film, but the graph posts the movie on its original release date.

Cliff Clavin would have known that. But he would have gotten it wrong.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


So I have just been social medially eclipsed by an 84-year-old German man who's part of a 2,000-year-old organization that has a reputation for changing slowly, if at all.

And if you notice, His Holiness tweeted the message from his iPad. I remember Windows users during the late 1990s saying stuff about how Apple boss Steve Jobs and his technology were behind the times compared with all the great functionality and software coming out of good ol' Redmond, Washington. It may have been that the were too far ahead of the times for that era and Jobs' vision had to wait for the technology to catch up.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bleepin' Guilty

Former Illinois Governor Rod "The Bleepinator" Blagojevich was found guilty of several corruption charges connected with his attempts to "sell" an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became president.

This was Blagojevich's second trial. The first jury deadlocked on most of the charges, including the major ones, and federal prosecutors no likey losing cases against officials when they have them committing the crimes on tape. Blagojevich had long since been booted out of Springfield, the state capitol, being removed from office after being impeached. His successor, current Governor Pat Quinn, has presided over a substantial income tax hike needed to keep the Illinois government functioning. Once Quinn leaves office, Blagojevich will probably not be Illinois' most hated ex-governor anymore.

Again, we have to wonder what Illinois' most famous machine politician, Da Honrable Richard J. Daley, Mare a Da Great City a Chicago an' All Its Great Peoples, would think of these issues. Blagojevich was convicted based on several phone conversations with others that were being taped by investigators, and Da Mare would probably just shake his head at someone who trusted important matters of state like this to the phone. He knew that you never knew who might be listening, and he even owned all the Chicago cops. In the end, I imagine he might have said something like what most Chicago politicians might say about why state government officials seem to get caught doing stuff that Chicago pols would think of as remedial-level graft: Springfield makes you stupid.

You got to stay amongst the best there is if you want to stay amongst the best there is.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

From the Rental Vault: The Big Steal

Two years after they helped create one of the definitive film noir entries in 1947's Out of the Past, Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer re-teamed in a decidedly lighter crime movie that mixed its noir with laughs in The Big Steal.

Mitchum is Duke Halliday, a U.S. Army payroll lieutenant who's robbed by the smooth-talking Jim Fiske (Patric Knowles). Halliday's superior, Captain Vincent Blake (William Bendix), suspects that Halliday may not be coming clean about the theft of the $300,000 payroll, so Halliday finds himself on the run to Mexico, needing to find Fiske and recover the money in order to prove his innocence. There, he meets Joan Graham (Greer), another of Fiske's victims. They join forces but happily don't turn off the snappy bickering until the movie's nearly over. Bendix makes an excellent hapless official, and Ramon Novarro's Inspector General Ortega plays nearly everyone off of each other in order to further his own agenda -- whatever that may be.

Mitchum is such a natural as the honorable tough guy with a few rough edges that it's easy to overlook how good of an actor he is. Greer's talent can go just as hidden, since she's almost as comfortable as the femme fatale as Mitchum is the tough guy.  Though two years earlier they played similar roles opposite each other in Out of the Past, Duke and Joan are nothing like Past's Jeff Bailey and Kathie Moffet. When they fenced with their words in Past, you could see lunges and vicious swipes meant to wound or worse. But here they're two clever people trying to out-clever each other and enjoying the contest.

Don Siegel, early in the career that would see him direct Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dirty Harry and The Shootist, keeps things ticking along nicely, allowing the cast enough time to have plenty of fun with the excellent Gerald Drayson Adams and Daniel Mainwaring (another Out of the Past alum) script but not so much the movie bogs down. The Big Steal, it's also worth noting, resists making its Hispanic cast members part of the background in a way that movies of the time more commonly did. Inspector Ortega, for example, seems like a typical greedy corruptocrat but shows plenty of layers before everything winds up. Greer's also got more to do that the usual "skoit" role familiar to "private eye pitcher" watchers, and it all adds up to a whole lot more fun than the 70-minute running time would seem to be able to hold.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

From the Rental Vault: The Cowboys

Warning: A little spoilery!

Many looks at John Wayne's career seem to believe that between winning an Oscar as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit and his valedictory final role as J. B. Books in The Shootist, the Duke spent most of his time grousing about hippies and thinking Richard Nixon got a raw deal.

Any movies he made during that time, if mentioned, get dismissed as forgettable formula, like Chisum or Big Jake; odd Clint Eastwood-echoes like McQ and Brannigan (which owe a lot to Dirty Harry and Coogan's Bluff, respectively); or no-pretense crowd-pleasers like Rooster Cogburn (...and the Lady), in which he dons Cogburn's eyepatch again for a sparring session with Katherine Hepburn.

And they're more or less dismissable despite some fun points in almost all of them. The Cowboys, though, offers a little bit more. Wayne challenged himself as an actor pretty rarely during his "icon" years of the 1960s and 1970s, other than in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Shootist. But The Cowboys was one of those times, with Wayne underplaying his role as rancher Wil Anderson as much as he could manage facing off against a collection of boys, teenaged and younger.

Anderson's ranch hands, lured by news of a gold rush, desert him and leave him unable to mount a drive to take his cattle to market 400 miles away. He winds up with a crew of boys he has to teach the basics of cattle management, along with the kinds of life lessons old men have to offer younger ones. The drive is mostly successful, although the boys' discovery of the adult men's liquor stash has tragic consequences.

Shadowing the drive are Bruce Dern's Asa Watts and a collection of similar ne'er-do-wells, who will force a confrontation that forces Anderson to choose what kind of a sacrifice he will make for the boys he has hired and led.

Wayne softens his usual granite bluffness with signs of age and vulnerability as he realizes some of the boys are facing dangers that many men would not. At the same time he distances himself more than usual, since most of the cast members he plays against are not the grown men of his usual work but boys separated from him by their youth, his wisdom and the generation gap that's been with us since Adam and Eve wondered when Seth was coming home. The competing moves make for a nice balancing act when Wayne pulls it off, showing what he could do on screen when he put forth the effort.

Roscoe Lee Browne brings his natural dignity and depth to the camp cook, Jeb Nightlinger, and Dern is appropriately creepy as Asa "Long Hair" Watts -- he may or may not have been acting. The cast of youngsters all handle their roles more or less well, since the experience of being a kid making a movie with John Wayne may not have been too different from the experience of being a kid driving cattle across Montana.

The Cowboys is definitely a nice find in Wayne's later career and holds up pretty well today. And by virtue of the casting of two of the teenaged cattle hands, it probably plays a part in more "Six Degrees of Separation" games than you'd think. "Slim" Honeycutt, one of the older boys on whom Anderson relies for leadership, is Robert Carradine in his screen debut and looking just about the same as he would 12 years later in Revenge of the Nerds. Yes, John Wayne is one step removed from Revenge of the Nerds.

Cimarron, another older boy, is A Martinez, later of the soap opera Santa Barbara and the recent Sci-Fi Channel thriller Mega Python vs. Gatoroid. Which means you can get from Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, 1980s teen popsters who also starred in Mega Python, to John Wayne in one step: All three co-starred with A Martinez. If you win any money with that, feel free to put a cut in the offering plate for me.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Just One More Thing...

The Great (Rumpled) Detective hangs up his trench coat.

Peter Falk was best known as the sharp-minded Detective Lieutenant Frank Columbo, who hid his wit behind rumpled-up trenchcoat, suit and seemingly bewildered manner. He was the third actor to do so, picking up the role in a 1968 TV movie of the week before the show itself was picked up as part of NBC's Mystery Movie lineup in 1971. The first episode was directed by the then 25-year-old Steven Spielberg.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Just Like Clockwork

Although I've never much cared for either Williams sister or their play in tennis, I was pleased that Serena Williams came through a potentially deadly medical condition without permanent harm and that she regained her health well enough to compete.

But with the usual metronomic regularity, Ms. Williams managed to say something dumb and quash any marginal goodwill I had for her by complaining about where she would have to play her next match at Wimbledon. She claims the move to Court No. 2 instead of Centre Court was sexist, that the men wouldn't have had to move because of scheduling changes or whatnot. She pointed out that she and her sister Venus had won more Wimbledon's together than most of the other players in the tournament, apparently as a justification for her belief her match should not have been moved.

We can set aside whether or not Ms. Williams is accurate about whether or not men's matches would be moved, although considering how often rain messes with things at Wimbledon and causes tournament officials to scramble to get matches played in time to finish in two weeks I'd bet she's wrong. And we can leave aside whether or not she's accurate about how the wins she and her sister have posted stack up against the number of wins by other players -- on this one, she may very well be right because she and Venus Williams have won a lot of tennis championships as individuals and as a doubles team. And we can leave aside the petty suggestion that the number of wins should merit some kind of special consideration in scheduling which matches will be played on which courts.

The part that made me hope for an early Serena Williams exit was the idea that being forced to work her way through the crowds of people -- some of whom had paid money to see her play -- was an indignity. Ms. Williams, 29, sometimes speaks of retiring soon. Not soon enough.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

You're Doing It Wrong

I think cigarette smoking is a nasty habit. My own substandard-issue bronchial system, which tended to go into shutdown mode in the presence of various kinds of pollen, meant I was never tempted. I confess I was never tempted to suck down car exhaust, either, but that activity never had a good marketing campaign. And I'm extremely happy my mom quit smoking more than a year ago.

At first, I thought the new cigarette label campaign, which put pictures of grotesque tobacco-related health damage and such on the labels themselves, was a good example of a good intention gone so what. They're meant to emphasize that smoking is dangerous. Well and good, but I think the only people today who smoke and don't know that smoking is dangerous live in the mountains away from TV, radio and computers and grow their own tobacco. Warning labels won't matter much to them.

Many other people who smoke either want to keep doing it or for one reason or another have too hard of a time quitting. If you've visited a 12-step recovery group for people who drink or who have used drugs, you will find that the surgeon general's opinion ranks low on the list of issues they consider during a day. And that when you set it up against some of the stuff they've ingested, the dangers of tobacco rank pretty low.

So new, super-gross warning label pictures seemed at best like those Death on the Highway-styled movies they showed us in driver's ed -- attractive to those with a ghoulish streak in them and ultimately ineffective as a deterrent because they were so over the top no one could believe them.

Then I read this story, in which an official with the Department of Health and Human Services said some of the photos in the labels were fakes. Whatever minimal value these graphic labels may have had as a deterrent just went...up in a puff of smoke, I guess. "Those pictures aren't real; smoking doesn't do that," the deniers will say. Since the truth is that at least some of the pictures aren't real, why should HHS's word be taken that any of them are? Or that smoking is that damaging? Don't worry -- I still know that it is. But that's because I read.

A warning label campaign based on pictures seems to me like a warning label campaign aimed at people who may not read as much. Although I may be over-generalizing about people who don't read as much, I'm going to bet a sizable percentage of them are going to be perfectly happy to believe that faked photos equal faked danger equal no harm in lighting up.

An old saying about someone who lacked competence was that "he couldn't hit the floor with his hat." When it comes to the federal government, we find people who most certainly can hit the floor with their hats. The only problem is that they don't take the hats off their heads first.

Oh, Fer Cryin' Out Loud...

The list of movies that don't need to be remade is long. And no matter what you think about the original, Footloose is on it.

The 1984 version was about an inch deep and was itself a blatant derivative of movies from the 1950s and 1960s about mean old fun-hating grownups who abused their authority to keep down the good-hearted kids who just want to have themselves a good time. The story took more care with its characters than its ancestor films did, and the presence of some top-level actors like John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest and Kevin Bacon make it more compelling than it had any right to be. Royalties from the theme song probably do more to keep Kenny Loggins comfortable than anything other than "Danger Zone" and "I'm All Right."

A 1998 stage version continued the trend of a show with lots of energy, fun music and dancing and a paper-thin story. It ran for just under two years and did well financially even though it drew at best lukewarn words from critics and no awards.

A trailer seen online shows the new version keeping with several aspects of the original -- Ren's yellow VW Beetle, his friendship with Willard and so on. But it also looks to up the trash factor by several notches -- shorts are shorter, the dancing is sleazier, so on and so on. Think of the grotesque remake of "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" by Jessica Simpson and you'll get the picture.

The only people who will be glad to see this are the writers of the Saturday Night Live sketch "Footless," which tried to reproduce the movie's story using people who had voluntarily given up their feet and which was just as stupid as it sounds. I've mercifully forgotten most of it, but part of their version of the theme song sticks in my mind: "Footless! Get footless! Shoeless, sockless and bootless!"

Until now, they were guilty of having produced the dumbest thing ever connected to Footloose, but come October they'll be dethroned.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Useful Information

Every now and again scientists do explore important questions, the answers to which have value in everyday life. Some of that research is covered by Professor Jonathan Day of the University of Florida at Vero Beach, when he explains why some people get bitten by mosquitoes more often than some others.

Mosquitoes seem to be better able to see certain colors than others, and their vision is also drawn by movement. Some combinations of chemicals our bodies normally emit will also get their attention. And, it seems, there are different things that attract different mosquitoes. Some are drawn by sweat, which means they will go for the feet and ankles because our feet sweat in our shoes. Chemicals given off when we exercise and those common to pregnant women, as well as higher concentrations of carbon dioxide exhaled by larger people or people with higher metabolisms interest the little bloodsuckers too.

So the wise advice during mosquito season is to not stand next to a tall, fidgety pregnant woman who's been exercising while wearing dark blue or red. That may not be a bad idea at other times, too, come to think of it.

If that's what it takes, I don't think the S.C. Johnson people are going out of business any time soon.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Vile Calumny! Vipered Tongue Hast Thou!

Overheard in the Heavenly Realms. Dept. of Retribution against Heretics and Blasphemers:

"Well, it's Monday, guys -- back to work."
"Yeah, gonna be tough paying attention today after the Clemons welcome party. I'm still so wired up my wings are buzzing."
"But we've got things to do, playing catch-up from the weekend. What's on the agenda?"
"Sports Illustrated column by some guy named Rothschild. He suggests that the Chicago Cubs -- I applied for a special Dispensation so I could say this aloud without suffering instant banishment, by the way -- replace Wrigley Field."
"Sweet heavenly day!  Is it satire? There's an out clause in the regs for that, you know."
"Nope. He's serious. Says the parking's terrible, the food's not great, the place is cramped and small, attendance is falling -- has a whole list of reasons."
"Nothing to do, then. We'll have to recommend the retribution for this. I don't even have to look it up, it's a Class A Smoking Thunderbolt Level Strike. Anything anyone want to say in his defense?"
"Not defending him, so much, but pointing out the guy's a Chicagoan himself..."
"Barely an M-Level Irritation, even in the winter -- few weeks of below-zero cold each year can't cover this..."
"...and he's a Cubs fan." Silence falls.
"It's settled, then. Another century."
"No World Series title until 2108? But the humans will invent anti-aging treatments in another 10 years; Rothschild will live to see that."
"He loses his season tickets in 2107."
"Now that's cold."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Today at lunch I saw a family with an adult daughter who was disabled. Judging by the chair she was in, the oxygen tank it held, the stuffed animal in her arms and the way she looked around the room, I imagine she was mentally as well as physically challenged.

I don't know if her condition was the result of an accident or something else. The summer I worked at a nursing home, I saw several people who were chronologically adults but who had the minds of infants. They even slept in adult-sized cribs because they would roll out of regular beds if placed in them.

Her father sat next to her. He was big and wore an imposing walrus mustache that added to the look. He carried himself with the attitude of a guy who had spent a considerable part of his high school life knocking down quarterbacks, and from where I could sit even I could tell he worked with his hands by the scrapes and calluses. The two or three times I heard him say something to the other family members with him, his voice was deep and matched the rest of his gruff appearance.

And he was the one who reached out with a napkin and wiped the corner of his daughter's mouth when she had drooled instead of swallowed. When she was born, did he know that at a time when his friends would be watching their own daughters learn to work accelerator, brake and wheel, he would still be doing for his own what he did when she was an infant? I don't know. All I know is that he gave his child the help she needed as it was within his power to give.

Happy Father's Day, sir. The joy of many more to you.

Unclear on the Concept

So the other day I saw a bumper sticker that said, "Spill, Baby Spill -- Stop Offshore Drilling." It had a Greenpeace logo on it, but I don't know if it was an official Greenpeace sticker because it looked a little amateurishly drawn.

It was on a Toyota, which you might figure because that make of auto (one of which proudly squires this Friar on his appointed rounds) is known for its fuel economy. Someone who wants to see offshore oil drilling, like that in 2010's Deepwater Horizon disaster, ended would want to drive a fuel-efficient vehicle in order to reduce fossil-fuel use.

Was it a Prius, the gas/electric hybrid that cuts down gasoline use by supplementing its internal combustion engine with an electric one? Prius drivers point out that by using the battery-powered electric motors in their cars, especially in urban driving, the help reduce CO2 and ozone emissions in areas that have a lot of those gases because of the larger number concentration of automobiles. Well, no.

How about a Yaris, the subcompact model sometimes marketed as an Echo? The hatchback model, known as a Toyota Vitz in Japan, get an estimated 63 mpg in Japanese city driving! Surely someone who wants to end offshore oil drilling would feel comfortable driving one of these little gas-sippers! No, again, sorry. It was actually a pickup truck.

So, of course it was a Toyota Tacoma, the company's compact truck, the latest models of which get in the upper 20s or lower 30s in the miles per gallon race. The Tacoma is in fact the current Friarmobile, although mine dates back a few years and can't boast those kinds of numbers. Urk. Sadly, no, the sticker was not on a Tacoma.

It was on a Toyota Tundra, the full-size pickup the automaker began offering in 2000. Moreover, it was a V8 crew cab Tundra, which at more than two tons is just about the biggest thing Toyota makes that's not a Land Cruiser or a part of their joint venture with Mitsubishi to build airplanes. Brand new out of the box, the Tundra can only manage 20 MPG on the highway (about 20 percent less than my Tacoma with 230,000 on the odometer notches) and in the urban environment where I saw it, that figure drops to thirteen mpg.

Opposition to offshore drilling is a legitimate position to hold, with fair arguments on its side. Many people do hold it. Many others do not. But it would seem to me that if I were going to advocate for an idea that would amount to smaller amounts of gasoline on hand, then I would best drive a vehicle that would use smaller amounts of gasoline itself. Or at the very least be a little shy about proclaiming that advocacy on a platform that is by some lights the very definition of the reason we're having to drill offshore in the first place.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Adios, Clarence

E-Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons passed away earlier this evening, a few days after a stroke. He was 69.

While his passing probably means the end of the E-Street Band, Bruce Springsteen's longtime backing unit, it is likely to produce the following exchange at the Eschaton:

Archangel Gabriel raises horn to lips, prepares to blow the trumpet as described in First Corinthians 15:52. Tall figure with a snappy fedora and a strangely curved instrument taps him on the shoulder.

Clarence Clemons: That's OK, Gabe. I got this. 

Archangel Gabriel and the numberless hosts of Heaven assembled: "Blow, Big Man!"

It's Not Easy, Being Green

I think I'm never going to understand something about super-hero movies. See, I was a DC guy as a kid nerd: I mostly read the comics printed by DC Publications, home of Superman, Batman, etc. I read a few Marvel titles, but I just didn't get into them as much.

And yet, in this era of big-budget super-hero flicks, in which I see the capes-and-tights crowd of my geeky youth make the big time, I am regularly disappointed by the way my preferred group of characters actually hit the silver screen. Sure, Marvel's thrown out Daredevil and Elektra, but DC heroes have given us Superman IV: The Quest for Peace,  Batman and Robin, Jonah Hex, Steel and Catwoman.

And nothing since the original pair of Superman movies has been as good as the first pair of Spider-Man movies, the original two X-Men movies or the two Iron Man movies we've seen so far. Tim Burton's Batman was three-quarters of a good movie inside a whole one; Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins was a promising start but just doesn't reach the Marvel pics' level. The Dark Knight, all hype aside, is above average but no better (All of this, of course, refers to live-action releases. In the direct-to-DVD animated arena, DC is kicking major tuckus).

And now comes Green Lantern, a murky CGI-laden mess that trades on some silly retconning done to the character in the 1994 Emerald Twilight and the 2004-5 Green Lantern: Rebirth, Ryan Reynolds' Downey-lite snarky charisma and Blake Lively's name recognition amongst the fans of the teen drama Gossip Girl.

It's not as bad as Catwoman.

But that's where the upside stops. Hal Jordan originally becomes the Green Lantern, a member of the galaxy-wide Green Lantern Corps, when the previous Green Lantern of Sector 2814 dies in a spaceship crash in the southwestern U.S. That Green Lantern, Abin Sur, directs his power ring to select an Earthman to pass itself along to; he must be without fear and completely honest. The ring finds Jordan, a test pilot, and brings him to Abin Sur with just enough time to explain the situation. Sur gives Jordan the ring and battery, explains their use and his new responsibilities, and bequeaths the human his distinctive green, black and white uniform. He notes that an impurity in the special metal which makes up the power ring means that none of the fantastic things Jordan will be able to do with it will work against anything colored yellow.

The movie immediately sets out to make this rather complex story even twistier, laying the "yellow impurity" at the door of a fear-being called Parallax whose return to consciousness after a long-ago defeat results in an attack on Abin Sur. Parallax was the name Jordan gave to himself when he abandoned his Green Lantern role following the destruction of his home city, killing his fellow Green Lanterns and their guides, the Guardians of the Universe, and absorbing all the Green Lantern energy. He wanted to recreate his home and revise the entire history of the world to correct all its wrongs; this was the setup for the 1994 DC miniseries crossover event Zero Hour.

In Green Lantern: Rebirth, the idea of an emotional spectrum that involves rings and power batteries of all kinds of different colors comes into play, and the movie draws on this silly idea to pit the green of the will, signified by the Lanterns, against the yellow of fear signified by Parallax.

But super-hero movies are often driven by silly stories. Green Lantern could still work if it wasn't saddled by Reynolds, who simply doesn't bring any weight at all to Jordan and isn't believable as a serious hero in the way that Downey and Michael Keaton were as Iron Man and the first Batman. And if it wasn't saddled by Lively, whose Carol Ferris is not as bad as Kate Bosworth's Lois Lane but ranks near the bottom of the "super-hero girlfriend" pool. And if it wasn't saddled by computer-generated imagery that visibly detracts from the story going on around it -- Ray Harryhausen would have done better with clay and wood (and, for that matter, frequently did).

The third super-hero movie of the summer of 2011 following Thor and X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern is easily the tail-end Charlie in terms of quality. It should hold that third-place spot until July 22, when Captain America: The First Avenger is released, when it will drop to fourth. It'll hold that until the release of Spy Kids 4 on August 19th. Right now, the best possible outcome is a box-office shellacking so profound it sparks a complete shake-up at DC Comics and rids the company of those who "greenlit" this movie and the upcoming universe-wide re-boot discussed here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Missed It by That Much

Congressman Anthony Wiener takes inappropriate pictures of himself and winds up having to resign from the House of Representatives. One of the women with whom he conversed via Twitter about said pictures and other inappropriate information -- who, for the record, maintains that her end of the conversations were not inappropriate or prurient -- will appear at an "adult entertainment" venue in Atlanta at what is reportedly three times her normal fee. Experts in her industry suggest this name recognition could bring her even more money should she return to performing in front of a camera.

My apologies, Congressman. You were apparently just the wrong kind of stripper.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Meet the New Boss...

...same as the old boss, Pt. I've-Lost-Count...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


"Classic Rock" (n.) A radio station format that will play Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" four to five times a week but will never play any actual old-time rock and roll.

"Convoy" (n.) 1) Group of vehicles traveling together for mutual protection and support. 2) Novelty song by C.W. McCall jumping on the CB radio craze; the funniest thing 1976 produced other than the idea Jimmy Carter could be president and without that idea's tragic aftermath.

"Morning Show" (n.) Name for radio morning drive time programming. Ingredients: Two air "talent personalities," assorted subordinate personalities, various readily identifiable shticks and "comedic" acts. Humor, good taste, music optional.

"Irony" (n.) Condition in which expected result or situation differs from actual result or situation. Ex. Hearing greater variety of music on a station promoting itself as playing the "greatest country hits of all time" than on one using the slogan "classic rock's next generation."


A fellow named Alan Siegel thinks people should stop paying attention to the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off because it's unrealistic.

He's convinced me. Ferris Bueller is second on my list of things to never pay attention to again, right after silly Boston-based writers who take themselves far too seriously.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Beta to the Max

Was it only a couple of years ago I was supposed to buy a Blu-Ray DVD player so I could see the absolute top quality available in movies on my home TV? I mean, after I bought an HDTV that showed all the high quality the Blu-Ray disc had to offer, of course.

Apparently, I'm glad I didn't. It seems that even though the combined sales of regular DVDs and Blu-Ray discs are up, the share of Blu-Ray sales overall, compared with streamed movie offerings, is not rising nearly as fast as it has been. People don't care about picture quality and such nearly as much as the disc manufacturers thought they would, so they're OK with the much crappier picture and sound they get watching a movie streamed to whatever they're using to see it.

I can understand that; I'm not an obsessive movie rewatcher so I can usually get my fill with what Netflix sends me via their regular DVD subscription service, what's on TCM or the half-dozen or so movies I actually own. For example, I love the movie Silverado, but I've never bought a DVD to replace the VHS version that's gone to the used book and video store. Why should I? It's on about every six weeks to two months, so I can see it pretty regularly. I can say the same thing about Open Range, except I found a copy of that at the used book and video store for $3, so I did buy it.

The thing that strikes me as funny if Blu-Ray really does fall by the wayside is that it's the format that won. Toshiba competed against Sony's Blu-Ray with the HD DVD format when high-definition video discs began to be available starting in 2005. But Toshiba stopped making the HD DVD format in 2008 after several studios went with Blu-Ray only, which means that Blu-Ray was the VHS of its time, beating out the "Betamax" of HD DVD. When VHS finally beat out Betamax in the early 1980s, it established itself as the dominant home-video viewing format until DVDs were widely available, finally finished off when studios stopped releasing new movies in VHS format in 2006. But Blu-Ray's win has lasted less than three years.

I'm not sure what kind of technology will show up next as the preferred way to watch a movie at home. So I'll probably take my time waiting to see what's the best choice.

Unless they could offer a format that guaranteed a movie that didn't suck. I'd be on that in a heartbeat.

Monday, June 13, 2011

So What Are We Going to Call Them?

Way back in 1923, Sir Billy Butlin introduced what were then called "Dodgem" cars at his resorts in England. But what became known as "bumper cars" may no longer be driven in such a manner as to crash into anyone at the resorts that still bear Sir Billy's name.

Signs posted at the rides warn resort guests that bumping into each other's cars with one's own car that is surounded by a thick rubber bumper will earn you an invitation to leave. Instead, you are to drive around in circles with the flow of traffic at the blistering speeds bumper cars regularly achieve.

Staffers insist that the attraction is still great fun, doggedly returning to the original name of "dodgems" and highlighting how drivers cross over the traffic patterns and overtake one another. Although they obviously can't be called "bumper" cars anymore since they can't bump into anything, I don't know that "dodgem" works very well either, as there is no reason to dodge what won't be permitted to bump you.

What we need is a good name for an electrically-powered vehicle of limited range that doesn't come close to measuring up to what's been said about it. Any ideas?

No, I'm sorry, those names are taken.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ask a Simple Question...

When confronted by the Apostle Paul's testimony in Acts 26, the Roman official Festus can't believe what he hears, and suggests Paul's lost it. "Too much learning has driven you mad!" he says.

That verse came to my mind when I read a movie review on an arts and faith blog I sometimes check out. The reviewer was preparing to write his piece at a coffee shop, and when the waitress asked him what he was working on, he told her a movie review. A bit more chat, and she asked him a question: "Did you like it?"

The movie reviewer couldn't answer (He includes a lot of smug snark about how painful it was to be asked that question, but that's the gist). Instead he told her how the movie deeply explored aspects of life's meaning, and the questions prompted by human suffering, and how it all ties in with the amazing story of the creation of the universe. All of those things are probably true; I haven't seen the movie in question yet but that's the way this particular moviemaker tends to operate. But he couldn't offer a simple "Yes" or "No" to the question "Did you like it?" And it's not that hard of a question.

For example, I didn't like Schindler's List. It was an amazing movie. It stunned in its unflinching confrontation of the evil humans can do, and in what kind of people may be moved to confront the evil and how they might fight it. It moved me and made me think. I would recommend it if people want to see some of those things for themselves. But I didn't like the experience of seeing it. I've seen it four times and I might see it again if I need some reminder about those things, although the chance of that isn't great. The flip side of that is that I have liked the experience of seeing any number of movies that said absolutely nothing worth remembering, but were funny or rousing or entertaining. I'd watch them again because of that.

Is "I liked it" or "I didn't like it" an oversimplification of how we respond to art or movies or music or other experiences? Sure. But even if it's an inadequate response, it's still a legitimate one. "There's a lot more to it, but yeah, I liked it" is OK. "Well, it made me think about some things I hadn't before, but I really didn't enjoy the experience" is OK too.

At what point do you get so wrapped up in your own analysis that you can't give a simple answer to a waitress's polite small-talk about what you're working on? Is it when you always say "film" or "film critic" instead of "movie reviewer?" When you quote with a straight face Roger Ebert's classic obfuscation “A film is not about what it is about. It is about how it is about it?” Funny thing is, most of the time I read this guy's reviews -- which I did when he used to write reviews more often -- I agreed with his opinions a lot of the time.

President Calvin Coolidge was well-known for not saying much. A story, probably not true according to Coolidge himself, suggests that when asked by his wife what a preacher had talked about in a Sunday sermon, he answered, "Sin." When Mrs. Coolidge asked, "Well, what did he say?" the president responded, "He's against it." Did the preacher say many more things than that? Judging by the example with whom I am most familiar (the one in my mirror), I would say he certainly did. But his basic message made it through.

Complex creatures like human beings have complex reactions, and they can't be fully described with simple statements. No matter what we say, there's almost always more to be said. Nuance is real, and it matters, but the simple starts the journey while complex describes it. The review of a thousand words begins with a "yes" or a "no."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Your Sun Asplode!

Astronomers have found a new type of supernova explosion that is brighter than any previous kind of such explosion known.

Supernovae are the explosions that happen when really big stars burn through all their usual fuel -- hydrogen -- and are forced to try to consume other elements that don't burn as well or for as long as hydrogen does. The resulting flameout creates a massive explosion instead of the burnout that happens in smaller stars like our sun. When our sun runs out of fuel, it will expand and then burn down to a cinder.

As the story notes, these new supernovae interest astronomers even more that the regular, garden-variety supernova does. When astronomers measure the spectrum of the light produced by an object like a star, the readings will tell them what elements make up whatever it is they are looking at -- different elements absorb different wavelengths of light. The new group has very different spectra than other supernovae, and so far astronomers don't know why, or exactly what to call this kind of supernova.

"Big Frickin' Exploding Star" would be my suggestion, but scientists generally like to use more syllables.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Now Serving Nos. 114 and 116...

Scientists at two laboratories recently announced the discovery of two new elements with atomic numbers 114 and 116. Until they're officially named, that's what they'll go by. Or you could call them "ununquadium" and "ununhexium," which are the Latinized forms of "114-ium" and "116-ium," respectively.

Yeah, sometimes scientists are weird.

The atomic numbers refer to the number of protons in an atom's nucleus, and that shows us where it goes on the periodic table. The simplest element, for example, is hydrogen and its atomic number is 1 because it has one proton in its nucleus. Carbon, an element essential to life as we know it, has six protons in its nucleus and so its atomic number is 6.

Although the scientists are said to have "discovered" the new elements, they have existed before. It's just that they deteriorate so rapidly -- the small quantities made in laboratories disappear in less than a second -- that they don't hang around long enough to be observed. The same is true of any element so far discovered with an atomic number above 94, and some of those with smaller numbers don't occur on their own, but only show up when other elements decay. Before this announcement, the largest atomic number confirmed was copernicium at 112, which was added to the periodic table in 2009.

Elements up to no. 118 (ununoctium) have been theorized, but so far only 114 and 116 of that group have been created in detectable quantities and the rest are still just theoretical.  So that's where 115 (ununpentium) is, in case you thought scientists couldn't count.

As one of the scientists who's on the official committee that reviews and recognizes these things pointed out, 2011 is the 100th anniversary of Marie Curie's Nobel Prize for the discovery of radium (88) and polonium (84). One of the elements used to make 116 was, in fact, curium (96), the element discovered in 1944 and named after her. The new 116 was created when scientists slammed curium with calcium in a particle accelerator.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cheesehead Status Proven!

Back last fall, I wrote brief, humorous (to me, anyway) recaps of some Northwestern University football games using all the sports-radio-caller hyperbole I could muster. In a fit of adolescent pique and maximum sore-loser-ness at the University of Wisconsin when they beat Your Heroes in Purple, I suggested that the Badgers were but modestly gifted bewtixt their ears with anything other than bone.

It seems, though, that stupidity is not limited to the actual University of Wisconsin, as college students from several Wisconsin schools joined together to protest recent actions by their state government by dressing up like zombies. After a person with the group read their statement, the made-up students rose from their sprawling "death" poses to lurch around the state capitol building repeating their slogans and mixing them in with traditional zombie-speak like "braaaaains!"

The students were not allowed inside the office of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, but they later found him and stood in front of the group he was addressing, turning their backs on him to show their disapproval. They did not continue their chanting, the student quoted in the story said, out of "respect" for the people the governor was addressing. That group being an assembly of Special Olympics participants readying to begin their torch run.

As we all know, the Special Olympics is a sports event that works with and features persons with cognitive or learning disabilities. Not many of them will have the chance to attend college. But I bet every last one of them knows the meaning of the word "respect" better than any of the highly educated empty skulls who demonstrated most conclusively that not only is one's presence in a college classroom not an automatic sign a person is wise, sometimes it's not even a sign that the person is very smart.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

United States of Popcorn

This actually showed up a few months ago, but I guess I missed it. Someone made a U.S. map with the state names replaced by movies that had been filmed in the state or best represented the state. A bigger version can be found here.

Not sure how I feel about us being represented by Twister, but on the other hand it's better than the Dust Bowl stereotype Grapes of Wrath or Michael Winterbottom's repulsive The Killer Inside Me. True Grit is supposed to take place in Oklahoma, but neither version was filmed here. Also lucky, I suppose, that we escaped the 1991 rodeo-dud My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.

And it could, quite obviously, have been worse. Nebraska is stuck with Children of the Corn, a Stephen-King derived movie not directed by Rob Reiner or Frank Darabont (a.k.a., "one of the ones that suck"). Georgia is identified with Deliverance, which means none of Ned Beatty's family will ever vacation there. I don't really know how you don't link Georgia to Gone With the Wind, but that's just me. Kentucky is given Kalifornia (konfusing!). Michigan would probably protest Robocop, if it wasn't for the fact that it looks more like a documentary every day. North Dakota shares Jesus Camp with Missouri, which is probably more of an indicator that the mapmaker ran out of ideas than it is that North Dakota is all that much like Missouri.

Even if Twister's not so great, I figure we Okies who want to argue the point will have to take our place in line behind the good folk of Wyoming. A conservative estimate puts the number of Westerns filmed in Wyoming at 73 million, so they probably would like to dispute that their state should be identified with Brokeback Mountain.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Although Gai-Jin was the last of James Clavell's "Asian Saga" to be published, it falls in the middle of the timeline of that series of books.

In it, Clavell returns to the Far East after the disappointing Whirlwind, set during Iran's 1979 revolution, and more specifically returns to Japan for the first time since Shōgun. It was the last book he would write, passing away a little more than a year after it was released in 1993.

By 1862, some ten years after U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew Perry forced Japan into opening trade with Western nations, several have established business headquarters there as they try to move into Japanese markets. Among them are Struan's, the Noble House established in Tai-Pan, and their bitter rivals, Brock's. The presence of the foreign trade delegations and diplomats is a source of tension in isolationist Japan, which is undergoing political upheaval in the twilight years of the Toronaga shōgunate. Neither Europeans nor Japanese understand the other's culture, and the knowledge gap leads to an attack on four Europeans out riding one afternoon. One is killed, and two are wounded, one seriously. A woman riding with them escapes. The seriously wounded man is Malcolm Struan, grandson of Struan's late founder Dirk Struan, and the woman Angelique Richaud. During Malcolm's slow recovery, he and Angelique develop a relationship, which does not particularly please Malcolm's mother Tess, the tai-pan or director of Hong Kong-based Struan's in all but name since her husband is unable to lead the company.

In the meantime, Lord Toranaga Yoshi, the guardian of the boy Shōgun until he attains his majority, must deal with rebels who seek to overthrow the shōgunate and restore the emperor to real power. He also must handle his fellow council members who believe he, like his namesake ancestor, covets the shōgunate itself.

As always, Clavell weaves a story that knows when to canter, when to trot and when to gallop headlong down the road. He is much more in his element in the Far East than he was in the Middle East and that gives Gai-Jin a sense of confidence Whirlwind didn't have. The connection with history -- the roadside attack and other incidents in Gai-Jin are based on actual events -- grounds the book more solidly than Noble House, which didn't have real-world analogs to root in.

Although it's his best book since Shōgun, Gai-Jin lacks the former's punch and focus. Part of the problem are the historical tie-ins. The arc of Shōgun bent towards Clavell's fictionalized version of the Battle of Sekigahara that put Tokugawa Ieyasu in power as the Shōgun, or absolute dictator, of Japan. Both the story of the English sea pilot John Blackthorne and Toronaga, Clavell's stand-in for Tokugawa, were aimed at a climactic resolution.

The historical arc of Gai-Jin bends towards the waning years of the shōgunate, leading up to Japan's industrialization and the Meiji Restoration of imperial power, which can hardly match a battle for impact. The Japanese storyline of Gai-Jin lacks the focus of the Europeans' side of things, and may have been Clavell setting the stage for later books in the series. It would be hard to imagine him not being able to find a story in the middle of the events that themselves set the stage for Japan's role in World War II.

Either way, Gai-Jin is a long read that keeps the journey worthwhile through most of its thousand-plus pages. Clavell's ear for dialogue helps the story bear down and his understanding that the story must always move forward, especially when the book is a thousand-plus pages, makes Gai-Jin a good way to spend a couple weeks worth of afternoons in its company.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Songs, Ice, Fire & Whatnot

Over at the long-post blog is a (surprise!) long post about reading George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. Much spoilage; it'd be best not to read it if you've not read Martin's books and want to find out how they end on your own.

June 6, 1944

They may age. They may gray. They may slow and stoop, and eventually they all will lay down to rest and rise no more.

But never shall they dim.

The Word "Re-Boot" Gives Me an Idea...

Through most of my comic-buying nerd life (dating from the time I was old enough to realize all the pictures in the book were telling a story until, um, now), I've been a DC person. Didn't dislike Marvel Comics, didn't think they were substandard or anything, just never really got into a lot of them.

So this decision by DC Comics to reboot their entire universe, starting every title over again at issue #1 and offering new origins, costumes and whatnot for all of their characters, matters more to me than any of the half-dozen reboots the Marvel Universe has done in the last 20 or so years. Or it would if I was still buying that many DC titles -- I'm pretty much down to the Legion of Super-Heroes main title and Adventure, since it's running Legion stories.

Sure, the DC continuity is all messed up because of all the different universes and heroes and everything they've used over the years. The original Flash, Jay Garrick, is still around as himself and appears to be around 50 instead of the 90+ he ought to be, thanks to some anti-aging treatments he's lucked into over the years, but Batman's been rebooted a couple of times and Bruce Wayne's currently in his late 30s or early 40s, even though they first appeared within a year of each other. The inclusion of heroes from the future only mucks things up even more.

We're talking comic books here, though -- there are of course über-nerds who will sniff down their noses at each and every miniscule mismatch between what earlier and later issues of a comic book say, or between the way a character appears in one book as opposed to another. But they represent a small portion of the comic-book buying public -- there's just not that many of them and they've not shown any special skill at reproducing. Most of us midlevel nerds like the characters, like the stories, like the artwork or a combo of any of the above. I enjoyed Jay Faerber's Dynamo 5 series, for example. Did I know if it kept precise continuity with the Captain Dynamo character that Faerber created for his series Noble Causes? Nope. Did I care? Nope again.

As blogger and proud nerd Jonathan V. Last notes, DC's press releases suggest they believe this move will bring enough excitement to their books that it will improve their sales figures -- they lag behind Marvel and have for some time. But as Last also notes in that entry and the one on his own blog, the one step DC won't -- or perhaps can't -- take in order to improve sales is to tell good stories with interesting characters and draw them well.

All the stunt-casting in the world won't save them if the resulting books aren't any good -- the return of Jim Shooter couldn't save Mark Waid's rebooted Legion of Super-Heroes after Waid and artist Barry Kitson left because the marriage of Shooter's adolescent snickering to Frances Manapul's ugly art produced nothing anyone wanted to read. Although Bill Willingham consistently creates some of the most interesting stories in comics in his Fables series, he never seemed to get a handle on DC's original super-team the Justice Society and left after two disappointing and pretty unfocused story arcs. It's doubtful stunt-storytelling like this universe-wide reboot idea will do much better.

The idea I mention in my post title is what exactly exasperated readers might think of doing with their boots or other assorted footwear they may be sporting should they encounter one of the geniuses at DC who came up with this idea -- kick them in their brains. But Last has a better closing line, quoting a friend's e-mail: DC has created the New Coke of comic books.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Where Do the Cats Go?

Researchers at the University of Illinois, no doubt needing to understand more about the evil familiars that aid them in their demonic attempts to dominate the world and keep all the chocolate chip cookies for themselves, put some radio collars and trackers on feral cats and outside house cats in order to determine what kind of area they hung around in and where they went.

They did this because while "We go wherever we darn well please, monkey-boy, and we are 12 pounds of nap-taking death if you get in our way" is accurate, it is not very scientific. One feral tom had a range of almost 1,400 acres, in a variety of environments in and around Champaign, Illinois. See "darn well please" note above.

The house cats allowed to roam outside, on the other hand, generally had ranges of about five acres. Researchers think this may be because cats know if you wander away too far, humans will forget how often they should feed you, not being too bright of a species, dontcha know (If opposable thumbs are so stinking great, why are you bringing me food, eh?)

In a finding that should surprise absolutely nobody, the tracking devices revealed that the pet cats were either asleep or in low activity (daydreaming about slow, fat mice) 97 percent of the time. But even the feral cats, who have disdained the idea of training humans to feed them as not worth the effort, were asleep or in low activity 86 percent of the time. The only primate that approaches this level of sedentary activity is a teenager during summertime daylight hours.

Researchers also noted that even the feral cats were usually pretty close to a building of some kind. One suggested that this fact showed the feral animals still had some dependence on human beings.

You keep thinking that, monkey-boy.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

That Trick Never Works

So, didja know the United States Department of Agriculture spends time, energy and money worrying about magicians' rabbits?

For real -- stage magicians need to have licenses to use rabbits in their acts. Usually, of course, these rabbits are pulled from hats despite not having been there when the empty hat is shown to the audience. And, apparently, the magicians have to have hand-washing stations available if they or the audience members are going to handle the rabbits, and the rabbits have to have as much time off-stage relaxing as they do on stage being subject to magical dematerialization and transfer across space-time without actually occupying it.

The story at the link offers several anecdotes of bullying USDA inspectors demanding to see licenses for the use of the rabbits (and apparently, only for using them in performances according to one tale -- killing them to feed to snakes requires no license, which is proof that Congress is cruelly deaf to Lepine-American concerns).

This is, frankly, surreal. A government department spends my money (and yours, too) to make sure stage magicians have licenses for their rabbits. A nationwide food industry that is rife with safety violations, illegal workers, substandard practices, etc., and the agency charged with checking into those matters is, instead, putting the arm on Mandrake the Magician -- "Lemme see your hands, Presto-Boy, and you'd better have nothing up your sleeves!"

Sometimes you get the idea that an inefficient government would be a step up.

(P. S. -- the most evil pun over this issue comes from a Canadian blogger here, suggesting that the USDA create a specially-trained cadre of magician's rabbit inspectors, called the "Warren Commission.")

Friday, June 3, 2011

Put Down the Badge and Have a Rest, Matthew

James Arness, best-known as Marshal Matt Dillon on the historic TV Western Gunsmoke, passed away earlier today at the age of 88.

Whenever our stay at my grandparents' home ran into the weekdays, we watched Gunsmoke, a regular on their TV schedule, almost as religiously as we did Hee Haw and Wild Kingdom on Saturday nights. Ken Curtis just had to open his mouth in order to get my grandpa to laugh, and sometimes he and grandma squabbled like Curtis's Festus and Milburn Stone's Doc Adams. Its cancellation in 1975 and replacement with two Mary Tyler Moore Show spinoffs, Rhoda and Phyllis, was not well-received in at least one household in the Kansas City suburbs.

The LA Times blog notes that even though Arness played other characters, he will probably always be Marshal Dillon. He began playing the character when he was in his 30s, which is difficult to believe even when you see the reruns -- he pretty much always looked like he was around 50 and shouldn't be trifled with. Arness carried the show throughout its 20-year history, with only one season -- 1967-1968 -- out of the top 30 in the ratings and only four out of the top 20.

Arness's death leaves Walter "Buck" Taylor III as the sole surviving longterm cast member. Taylor played Newly O'Brien, a gunsmith who later became an ally of Matt's and replaced him as the marshal of Dodge City when Matt retired, in some reunion movies filmed in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sometimes Common Sense Is Right

I'd think most people would agree that when we try to do two things at the same time, we often don't do them as well as we would if we focused our attention on one or the other of them. "Multi-tasking" exists, but much of the time what we mean that word to describe is the ability to switch between tasks and more or less not "lose our place," so to speak, at the task which is on hold. We usually don't really mean doing more than one thing at the same time.

A lot of online literature suggests that young people multi-task when they are learning -- they check phone messages when studying, they're online and scanning Facebook or texting someone while also reading course material or reviewing their notes. One of the places this is supposed to happen is the classroom, where many students bring their laptops with a stated purpose of note-taking. Some of them may actually mean that, but talk to professors and you will probably learn that most of those laptop covers they see facing them are concealing Facebook pages, internet surfing or maybe even movie or TV watching.

Again, this wouldn't seem like surprising news to anyone who's ever been online or sat through a college class at the ripe old age of 20. One of those activities is diverting and entertaining. One of them isn't. This story in The Times Higher Education outlines how a professor at Lehigh University saw that his students who brought laptops didn't do as well on tests as students who took notes the old-fashioned way. The story also digs into some neurological research that says the same thing.

Essentially, our brains seem to work a little like our ears do in this respect. If you are supposed to listen to a sound, you can do it much more easily when fewer other sounds are made around you, especially if those other sounds are more pleasant or more interesting than the one you are supposed to listen to. I, for example, would pay attention to the air conditioner if you told me that's what I was supposed to do. But if, say, Angie Harmon began talking in the background, I would pretty quickly abandon the air conditioner for a sound that is of far more interest to me.

The funny thing is that universities and colleges have spent quite a bit of money making their campuses internet-friendly as a way of attracting students, or at least as a way to avoid running them off. But now they find that campus-wide internet capability can often get in the way of the things that were supposed to be at the center of their reason for existing -- teaching and learning. It's almost as if the entire college experience wasn't really about learning anymore or something...

(H/T University Diaries)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Maybe I'm Not Well

OK, Annual Conference is over, and for some reason I'm still not grumpy, even though I'm tired out. Maybe I need to see a doctor.