Saturday, April 26, 2008

More Seen at the Gym

So I'm now opposed to all forms of human cloning, and I'll tell you why in two words: Carter Oosterhouse.

Saturday morning TV at the gym is HGTV day, which might be cool because lots of those remodeling programs feature power tools. But then I watch a couple episodes of Carter Can, in which Mr. Oosterhouse helps some homeowners remodel some real trouble spots in their homes. Now, although I'm not married, it might yet work out that I will be someday. And I'll probably want to stay married, too, and there is no way that will ever happen if scientists figure out how to clone human beings and wives across America figure out they can clone Carter Oosterhouse.

You think it won't happen, eh? Well, I hope you're right, Mr. Balding Pasta-belly McSquinty-glasses, but I think you're hiding your head in the sand. You sign up for the show. You get ready. And here comes Carter. He's taller than you. He has a jawline. He was born with the five-o'clock shadow you don't get until 11 PM Sunday night. Watch him stand when he talks to you about your pathetic attempts to redesign rooms in your own home. His feet are farther apart than your puny arms can reach and he's all but marking your house as his territory. Sure, he's being pleasant, but it's the same way you're pleasant to your dog when he tries to figure out the packaging on a rawhide chew toy. You know the dog can't get to it but he's so funny when he tries! He never has to wear Dockers.

Then comes the actual building and construction. Watch Carter use the power tools and finish half the job in the time it would take you to turn them on. Watch Carter explain tools he's using that you used to hear the old men talk about but have never seen in real life. And now watch Carter show your wife how to use those tools. You can almost hear her mentally rehearse the words "irreconcilable differences" right now. You wonder if "accidentally" amputating your finger might give you a good excuse to get out of the show so you don't look even worse but you can't figure out where to plug in the saw. Carter takes the pencil that actually stays behind his ear and with it draws a line so straight rulers get jealous. He asks you to do the next one and you map the Congo River. And all the time, your wife is watching.

So what, you think? So he's manly and he can use power tools? He's got some wussy college degree, right? Yeah, nutrition and communications. Which he earned on a rugby scholarship.

Doesn't matter, you say. I'm the one who listens to her, I'm the father of her children, I'm the one who promised to take her in sickness and in health. Then you watch the footage. Carter sits down with your wife after they install part of the remodeled room fittings. She talks with him; he understands her. He plays with your kids. Your son now knows how to use a circular saw better than you do. Your daughters will learn to spell "Oosterhouse" before they can spell your name because they'll be writing it inside little hearts all over their diaries.

Mark my words, men. If scientists perfect the ability to grow complete human beings from just a few cells, then there will be divorce lawyers on the phone, fifty million Carter Oosterhouses in the cloning vats and husbands everywhere headed back home to live with Mom. No Dad, just Mom. Because she wants a Carter-clone too.

Friday, April 25, 2008

General Conference Challenges

A friend blogged about his upcoming visit to General Conference -- a trip I planned to make myself until I suddenly discovered the next six weeks will need to involve a lot more packing than I might have thought a couple of weeks ago.

He asked what might be the top four issues facing the UM church as it holds another of its quadrennial General Conferences. That meeting, for you non-Methodists, is when we determine what our church law book will say, what positions we might take on certain issues and handle other legislative-type business. I started to respond in his comments, but then I realized I was writing more than a comment section needed, so here's what I have, in no particular order:

1. Organizational angioplasty. In our General Boards and Agencies, the United Methodist Church truly lives up to its character as the so-called quintessentially American church, because they are as sclerotic and out of touch as any federal bureaucracy ever created. Any number of methods might accomplish this. I think a wholesale sacking of the general secretaries and their executive staffs, a group that seems determined to live a long time ago as a polity far, far away might be the most fun to watch.

2. Updating many of our church operating procedures. For example, say people move away from this town and church, but we lose touch and don't have a contact address for them. They don't go to the church anymore, because they moved across the country and the commute is a deal-breaker. But we have no address to see if they've joined another church or stopped altogether. If we started the process today, we wouldn't be able to remove them from our rolls until 2010. This is just one of our many operating procedures that assumes a society and culture that stepped off the stage with Eisenhower.

3. I'll borrow one from another friend and agree with him it's less useful to ask or argue about what our founder John Wesley did than it is to understand why he did what he did.

4. Drop our ad slogan, "Open hearts, open minds, open doors: The people of the United Methodist Church." I debated saying this, because I've got a loooong rant about it. But putting it here ensures I trim my rant and thus bore you that much less. Who in their right mind dreams up a church branding statement that never mentions God? The United Church of Christ, one of America's most liberal denominations, mentions God in their commercials, but we must have filmed ours on the Sabbath because He's a no-show in the whole campaign (We talk all about ourselves, though. I smell a baby boomer). Plus, the phrase is as limp as language can be and not be a Michael Buble song. Know what it misses most (other than God)? VERBS! Ten distinct words, not counting repeats, and not a single verb! It defines our Igniting Ministries initiative! It's our commercial! It's on our stationary, our bulletins, our billboards and our church signs, and it completely lacks VERBS! My writing teachers would laugh at something like this and not bother grading it. Remember: Verb! That's what's happening!

Well, that's just what I think. Someone else might have a different idea.

ETA: Yes, "open" is a verb, but here it's being used as an adverb, so it doesn't count.

(H/T to Matt)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More Seen at the Gym

The TV saga continues, and tonight helped me answer a question I guess I hadn't ever wanted to ask. The question: Would O'Reilly Factor host Bill O'Reilly somehow be more tolerable, less of a jerk, less full of himself, etc., if he were suddenly transformed into a woman?

As I was watching CNN talk show host Nancy Grace, and unfortunately hearing her as well because the "down volume" button on that TV is gone, I learned that the answer would be no. I also learned that a TV missing its down volume button when Nancy Grace is on is a true minion of evil. Be warned.

Follow-up bonus question: Who the heck is Glenn Beck and why does he have a TV show? Please double-space your answers and use standard margins.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Little Melody

Sometimes it pays off to check out random artists in the "New Releases" section at my local Hastings, the book/video/music store that serves our entertainment needs here in SW Oklahoma.

After seeing Melody Gardot's record Worrisome Heart, I went home and checked it out via the good ol' internets and iTunes. Whabam! Some really good cool jazzy stuff that has way more substance than some of the other young ladies who are working in this genre. Her story packs its own punch. She survived a near-fatal accident between her bicycle and a jeep which leaves her with different health and medical issues still (the dark glasses deal with her sensitivity to light), and used the music she had learned as a young girl as a way to re-train her injured brain to work again. Her first EP, The Bedroom Sessions, came out of that therapy time.

These tunes, though, would be at the top of the stack no matter what Gardot's personal struggles might be. One minute smoky, the next plaintive, the next something else again; Gardot's voice has an uncanny ability to encircle your cortex and create not just an aural experience but an entire place and setting within the first few bars of a song.

The best news? Hastings had the CD for $6.29. I remember spending more on cassettes and getting a whole lot less for my money. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Bryan Adams, for smelling up some great classical stuff on the Three Musketeers soundtrack. But that's another story.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Purple Vindication Pt. 2: The Grown-ups Awaken!

Apparently some administrators at Yale University found out what one of their students wants to do for a senior art project.

They're a bit underwhelmed and have decided that the student in question needs to provide a "written confession" she made it all up, or else they won't let her display the project.

In the best Captain Reneau fashion, they are shocked, shocked to learn what four years of a Yale education have spawned in the mind of one of their students. If they'd known about this, why, they never ever ever would have let it go forward.

So my question is, what responsible adult hears a student suggest a performance art piece that might cause serious medical problems for herself and says anything other than, "Let's think on this some more." Or doesn't go to, say, a dean of the art school and say, "I think we've got a possible kerfluffle here." And why doesn't someone who's the dean of the art school at one of the nation's top universities have a little bit better handle on what the kids are doing and what the teachers are letting them do? You've got the best and brightest of the country hanging around your studios, doc. Why not stroll through a classroom or two and see what they're up to; edify yourself a bit and be exposed to their creativity. Also might prevent you from becoming a laughingstock some day, you never know.

The "written confession" idea is a hoot. Yale administrators say that the student can display her project, as tasteless, grotesque and offensive as it is, only if she agrees to say she made it all up. If she does that, you see, then she can go ahead and be a bold and creative visionary for pretending to have miscarriages and pretending to ingest unknown chemicals in order to facilitate them.

I expect the next news in this matter will be someone in the Yale administration confessing that the idea they confer a degree worth anything has been a part of their own performance art piece and all their students would have been better off at a community college -- hey, wait. That may be true.

Friday, April 18, 2008

What's It Mean?

My all-time favoritest genre of movies ever had another weekend no. 1 last week. The Prom Night remake made $20.8 million and was the top box office draw.

I used to think, and still do, mostly, that such a state of affairs means lots of folks have no damn sense, either morally or of the old fashioned don't-touch-the-hot-stove variety. But I'm not sure anymore if the sense deficit actually causes these movies to be made and watched. I think it's more basic and not nearly as complicated as some sort of psychological fault or mental illness, although I maintain the people whose creative vision runs this way couldn't be hurt by therapy. Nope, it's much, much simpler.

We got way too many people who just don't have enough to do.

Purple Vindication?

You know, when I was at Northwestern, we had an awful lot of fun made of us as people who went there because we couldn't get in to an Ivy League College like Yale. Those colleges were just a bit too selective for ordinary plebians like us.

Guess things have changed.

Later information suggests the young, student,, artist -- well, I can't think of a single word to describe her role that doesn't merit scare quotes showing she's neither a lady, a student or an artist -- sort of made up her little project. Yale says the whole bit -- including her denials that she made it up -- is part of the performance art piece. One commenter who unofficially interviewed some medical folks says that what she suggests she's done would pose a serious danger to her health and represent some definite mental illness.

CO2-footprint reducing Yale administrators apparently used up their quota of neuron firing for the day once they said the piece was fake and went on defend Ms. Shvarts' "right to express herself through performance art."

They only did so, of course, because her piece was fake. Had she actually done what she claims she did, well, that "would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns." Since she really didn't do what she says she did, the only serious mental health concerns that need be addressed are those among Yale's administrators and the,,, adults...ah, I know: people apparently drawing paychecks for no good reason, who approved the project.

Maybe their neurons will fire come grading day and they'll flunk Ms. Shvarts, which will teach her more than four years at Yale apparently have. Barring that, maybe someone will wash her mouth out with soap for thinking miscarriages are a fit subject of her little "Let's Pretend!" charade.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What The? (Again)

Daniel Craig gives us another reason people pay actors to say other people's words and why we should pretty much ignore them when they say their own.

Mr. Craig thinks the company that makes the James Bond movies ought to let the premiere double-naught spy of all time have a gay relationship to add to his endless series of lady conquests. Modern audiences, he says, wouldn't "blink an eye," and the move would "modernise" Bond. Well, maybe or maybe not. But I'd say this. A comment that talks about how to modernize or make more realistic such an obviously artificial character as James Bond is hard to take seriously. John Le Carre wrote realistic spy novels. Len Deighton wrote realistic spy novels. Ian Fleming wrote adventure stories that featured a "spy."

Spies, especially modern ones, dig through information and sift through files and listen to microphones and use a whole lot more brains than bullets. le Carre details how much espionage work involves gaming and puzzle-solving against the other side. Deighton offers a good glimpse of how an intelligence agency is also a government bureaucracy and often behaves as such.

Now, I'm a big Bond fan, and I love how Casino Royale toned down the gadgetry-mania that let Roger Moore overstay his welcome and ruined the last two Pierce Brosnan editions. In spite of the endless poker game in the middle, Royale ranks as one of the best Bond films of the long series. But a realistic Bond or, in Craig's words, a "modernised" Bond would probably spend more time at a listening post or in front of a computer than he would in bed with a dangerous fatale, be it femme or homme.

So let's keep him the anachronistic misogynist cartoon character that he has always been, shall we? Best to leave be that which need not be shaken, so that nothing untoward might be stirred.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

An Honest Man

Diogenes can douse his lantern now. We've found one.


Friday night I had a kind of geek/irony overload, and my brain is just now recovering. Imagine how the people who listened to me preach this morning felt.

So Battlestar Galactica -- which is the best show on television unless there's a WKRP or Barney Miller rerun on, and there never is, so draw your own conclusions -- has returned with new episodes after a year away. But scheduled opposite it by those villains at Spike TV? The original Star Wars, technically known now as "Episode IV: A New Hope." It may be better known by you folks under 35, who may be more familiar with Episodes I-III, as "one of the three that doesn't suck."

Although I had some consternation about which to watch, it was quickly overcome by the realization that I have seen Star Wars about a hundred times and I own a copy if I need to watch it again. But the irony overload blew my my poor dorky circuits. Here, scheduled against one of the best Star Wars movies, was the modern Battlestar Galactica, a miraculously good remake of a horrible 1970s show that was itself derided as a poorly done Star Wars-ripoff! If you click on the first link, check out the snazzy high-tech computer Maren Jensen is about to type something on. Fortunately, this advanced civilization would soon let Maren and the other "girls" serving on Galactica be pilots 'cause all the men pilots got sick. This episode also featured a memorable performance by Ed Begley, Jr., as "Ensign Greenbean."

As bad as the original Battlestar was -- and in the opinion of noted TV critic Carl B. Graham, Sr., my grandfather, "Battlestar Galax" was as dumb a space show as had ever been since Lost in Space, a.k.a. "that silly robot show" -- it can't hold a candle to the sequel, proof that people who run TV networks are really not very smart. Galactica 1980 had the remains of the ragtag fugitive fleet find Earth, and try to improve its technology -- maybe offering them a Commodore 64 or something -- while protecting Earth from the Cylons. We never had to worry about what would happen when the calendar changed, since Galactica 1980 expired several months before the actual 1980 did.

These shows should teach us all some lessons: 1) Battlestar creator Glen A. Larson could sell snowcones to Siberians. After all, he sold this show to ABC twice! 2) Sometimes write-in campaigns to rescue your favorite canceled show backfire horribly and create new series in which your heros have to save Wolfman Jack.

Anyway, my brain has finally recovered from its geek/irony multi-parallel space-time inversion...well, it's mostly recovered, anyway.

Friday, April 11, 2008

On This Day... 1935, Richard Berry was born. Who, you ask?

Well, in 1957, he wrote and recorded a little song that would later be covered by a band called the Kingsmen, as well as every other band and musical artist on the planet, including a cappella groups and marching bands. It would be the subject of a 31-month investigation by the FBI as to whether or not its lyrics were obscene. Some strong language at the link, by the way, as Snopes prints what those libidinous teens thought were the lyrics. The eventual finding: The lyrics could not actually be discerned, so there was no way to judge whether or not they were obscene.

So today is International Louie Louie Day in honor of this auspicious slice of Americana.

Me gotta go now.

(H/T Chaz)

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Had plenty of wind down here in SW Oklahoma today. This afternoon, I drove west against the wind to my second church and used about a half a tank of gas. When I came back, driving east with the wind, my mileage was so good I got it all back!

More Seen at the Gym

Depending on what time of day one works out at the nearby college, one watches different programs. There's the Ellen-View-Oprah crew in the mornings, the noontime ladies who love those court shows and the fellow in the evening who prefers both TVs to show The History Channel.

And there's one guy who will turn it to The Price is Right, which is usually enough to get me to pause the iPod between commercials. My sister and I watched the show when we were kids because it was bright, glitzy and noisy. Later, I grew a real appreciation for host Bob Barker. I really enjoy watching someone who's really good at what they do do that thing they're really good at. There are exceptions, of course. In any event, Barker was a master at being the MC of fun for an hour each morning. Maybe he faked it for 35 years, but he seemed very much to like the contestants on the show, the audience and even those of us watching at home. He somehow made a 19-year-old college student excited about winning a furniture suite that would be a better fit in his grandma's house.

Drew Carey, the current host, had a big job when he took over late last year. His selection made a lot of sense -- he's generally a likeable fellow. Appearance-wise, he can appeal to TPIR's older fan base because of that crew cut and the dorky glasses with a "What a nice young man" vibe. Most of them probably hadn't watched his sitcom very often and seen some of the places where he pushed boundaries that they might not appreciate. As a host, he seems to like the contestants and the people on the show as much as Barker did, and he's more demonstrative of it -- chalk that up to the generational differences, I suppose. He's obviously having a blast.

Over the months, Carey's showing more comfort and ease with the role. His ratings are about 15 percent lower than Barker's, but prime-time specials in February and March did very well. And some people would kill to have 85 percent of their predecessor's ratings.

Watching Carey might bring to mind that he wasn't the only prospective Barker successor -- producers also met with Rosie O'Donnell. O'Donnell said she turned down the offer mostly because the show was filmed in Los Angeles and she and her family live in New York. CBS apparently didn't think much of her vision of the show, either. And I have to say I can't blame them, but I'm the guy who can't figure out why O'Donnell hasn't been working in a convenience store somewhere ever since being the reason Gimme a Break did the the shark-vault in 1986 (Hey -- she shows up in 1986 and the show gets canceled. You do the math).

Anyway, TPIR demonstrates, to me anyway, how it's rarely a smart idea to tinker too much with something that works when one of its major attractions is how it's a walking, talking piece of nostalgia. Sometimes it's really true that what hasn't been broken doesn't need fixing.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Schlock Will Eat Itself

This Friday will see the release of the movie Prom Night. If you're over 35, you may remember a 1980 release with that name starring Jamie Lee Curtis in another of her scream queen roles. She'd probably rather you not spread that around, though.

Last year, Rob Zombie continued his desperate quest to convince America he's as awful at making movies as he is at making music by remaking 1978's Halloween. Also starring Jamie Lee Curtis, and again, please keep that just amongst ourselves. The original starred her, that is. She'd gathered a little movieland clout by the time 2007 rolled around.

Coming up later this year, April Fool's Day, a remake of the 1986 slasher movie which did not star Jamie Lee Curtis. She was busy making the just-as-horrible non-horror film Perfect. Also on tap, Train, a remake of 1980's Terror Train, which starred -- yikes! Jamie Lee Curtis!

On tap for 2009? A remake of Friday the 13th, a movie which already has a bunch of remakes disguised by Roman numerals as sequels. Also upcoming is a remake of 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street, and let's not forget the 2006 remake of the 1977 movie The Hills Have Eyes. And no, I'm not linking any of this crap.

As a genre, horror movies have been largely unblemished by ideas, and horror directors and writers have discovered their own version of Clearasil in the form of remakes. We now have a movie genre that offers derivatives of its own derivative plots. In calculus we would call the second derivative of function f and write it f''(x), where x=the intersection of the set of standard tissue-thin characters with the set of even thinner recycled plots as bounded by the sadism of the filmmakers, figured as creativity approaches zero.

A horror moviemaker has two options open to get a reaction from the audience: Terrify or shock. Shocks are pretty easy -- a sudden movement, a sudden loud noise or other camera or sound gimmick and you can startle almost anybody. Throw lots of gore on the screen or show some incredibly violent act and you've got a gross-out, which is a kind of shock. Almost every horror film made today relies on startling shocks instead of actual frightening.

Older horror movies, made before the improved special effects and devolved moral sensibility of the modern-day director and writer, couldn't shock so easily. Production codes forbade explicit gore or actual cruel acts, and what they didn't prohibit was sometimes not possible with the effects technology of the time. A director had to build suspense first before triggering the shock effect or fear because he or she couldn't take the shortcut of throwing a few gallons of red karo syrup around the set or show some poor teenage girl whimpering while a man with a knife brutally killed her.

Most of what's new today as a part of horror film -- ahem -- creativity involves precisely those shortcuts. Deviancy has been defined far enough down that a filmmaker can create scenes of violence, brutality and sadism and be explicit with them -- there have been four Saw movies, after all. Somebody still gives Eli Roth something to do that doesn't involve soaping windows at a car wash.

Movie remakes are nothing new. The Ten Commandments, the movie that helped launch Charlton Heston as a major box-office star, was a remake of Cecil B. DeMille's own silent film of 1923. Most of the time they don't measure up, but sometimes they do. Which may be one reason horror remakes are so much worse than their already-dismal predecessors -- when you're failing to measure up to something that's already about as low as might be imagined, you're pretty much guaranteed to suck.

Wanna Bet

That Chuck and Moses are sharing a big laugh about this one right about now? While Cecil B. DeMille is saying, "Oh, pipe down already."

Saturday, April 5, 2008

More Geekin'

Dumb things I saw people do at the OU Medieval Fair:

- Wear high heels to an event mostly on bare, recently watered ground.

- Wear wedge heels to an event that's mostly walking.

- Stop in front of a bridge and stand there.

- Stand in a long line to get a ridiculously expensive souvenir bottle of warm cream soda -- wait, that's a dumb thing I saw me do at the OU Medieval Fair.

- Wear every last bit of black clothing you own -- including a black hoodie, pulled up over the head -- on a sunshiny April day in Norman Oklahoma.

- Bring dogs that have never been to obedience school and wouldn't know the difference between "stay" and "spray" to an event with thousands of people and hundreds of other dogs.

- Bring a pet rabbit when all of those other people brought those dogs.

- Smoke. OK, that's dumb anywhere.

Cool things I saw people do at the OU Medieval Fair:

- Buy Tullamore, Istanpitta and Bilge Pumps CDs.

- Generously tip the bands and other performers.

- Be geeks together. Although the Fair draws thousands, it seems like a big part of the core is a group of that good ol' D&D crowd that gets to be the insiders instead of the outcasts for once. Kind of like how Star Trek fans are at their conventions.

- Wait courteously for the portable toilets.

- Watch performers be bawdy -- which is being dirty only using enough of your wits to make the audience think in order to get the joke. Bets the heck out of all the entertainment produced by the masters of the single entendre.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Get Your Geek on, baby!

BSG returns TONIGHT! My phone is unplugged! My doorbell wired to explode in your face! Any parishioner with a crisis better save it until after 10 PM Central time!

So say we all.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

What The? (Again)

(This is a long rant. Ignore it unless you're bored)

As a former media person (I still make my living off the First Amendment, I just switched clauses), I've usually felt those claims of "media bias" have less to do with politics than they do with a bias towards conflict and other things that you can actually write stories about. When nothing happens, there ain't no story.

I also whip out my salt-shaker when various media outlets suggest they are acting objectively and setting their own bias, whatever it may be, aside. I'm less convinced every day that pure objectivity is possible anywhere outside of math. One group of media folks denounces Fox News as rabidly right wing and claims they are practicing traditional objective journalism. The Fox folks say, no, we're being objective and it only looks right wing because you all have been skewing so far left for so long. That message seems to prick more ears; Fox ratings are often higher than the other 24-hour news channels.

A little look in the newspaper The Independent might suggest why. On April 1, the London-based paper ran a story on the U.S. economy. In it, reporter David Usborne noted that the number of Americans receiving food stamp aid is higher than it was during the 1990s, suggesting that an economic depression may be coming. Other people pointed out that the raw numbers are higher but the percentage is lower. Either side can make its point with the data; they just have to pick which numbers they want to talk about.

Notice the picture with the story, and its cutline: "Disadvantaged Americans queue for aid in New York." The picture is from a company called Getty Images that supplies photos to newspapers and other media outlets. You can find it here. With the photographer's original cutline, about people lining up to get free coats from New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2005. The art has zero to do with the central fact of the story, which focuses on increased food stamp use as a sign of an economic depression that may be about to happen in 2008.

The image use isn't technically dishonest, although we don't know if these New Yorkers were actually "disadvantaged." I've bought coats at thrift stores before and I've never been in the disadvantaged class, so I don't know that getting a free coat qualifies you to wear that label. In any event, these New Yorkers did in fact "queue up to receive aid." But they didn't receive the kind of aid the story focuses on and they received this particular aid three years ago, which pushes the whole thing into the area of manipulative presentation even though it isn't an outright lie. I personally think the photo use stemmed more from sloppiness than from pushing an agenda, but it still eats away at credibility.

And thus, a news organization that says, "We report, you decide" and contrasts itself with that kind of sloppy or even in some cases deliberately manipulative presentation draws legions of fans and viewers. When I've watched Fox News, I've found their news coverage may skew a little right of center. Their opinion folks, of course are different. They skew right (Sean Hannity), extra-terrestrial (Alan Colmes), blowhard (Bill O'Reilly) and constantly milking the disappearance of pretty blondes (Greta Van Susteren).

Some of their news folks are openly conservative, like Brit Hume, or maybe better seen as moderate, like Chris Wallace. I don't mind that, just like I don't mind knowing Charles Gibson of ABC is probably pretty liberal. In fact, I like knowing it. If I know I'm wearing red safety glasses, for example, I know my eyes are telling me my truck is a color that it really isn't. Knowing whether or not a reporter or writer sees himself or herself as liberal or conservative or Klingon helps me correct my vision when I read or hear what they say (Klingon reporter says: "The forecast calls for rain." Klingon reporter really means: "It is a good day to die.")

Paying attention to or ignoring a particular news source simply because it the reporter obviously demonstrates some kind of bias is not a responsible choice. The Independent's story highlighted some real economic issues, even though its photo choice stunk. Fox News gets some good stories. We should all be grown-up enough to admit there's some shoe polish in amongst all the stuff we don't like and we should work to make sure we know the difference.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bad Title?

I haven't book-blogged in awhile, so let's take a look at Lee Child's latest paperback adventure of adventurer Jack Reacher.

Child has been writing about Reacher, an ex-U.S. Army investigator who now wanders around the country, since 1997. Bad Luck and Trouble is the 11th Reacher novel, and maybe giving it that title proved a bit of bad luck in itself. After a nomadic lifetime as an Army brat and then a serving officer himself, Reacher doesn't stay anywhere longer than a night or two. He has a folding toothbrush, an passport for ID (a post-9/11 innovation) and the shirt on his back, which he wears for a few days and then tosses into the trash in whatever thrift store he bought a new one at.

In that sense, the Reacher books have always required a little suspension of disbelief. But by making Reacher the ultimate gypsy, Child can make sure he's always the unknown stranger and offer a new femme fatale in each volume. And Child's precision, fast-paced writing moves the story along well enough this kind of "Yeah, sure" feature doesn't slow things down.

But Bad Luck is, for whatever reason, Child being lazy, and it shows. The story centers on Reacher and former colleagues from his special Army investigations unit, several of whom have gone missing. The others try to learn what happened to them while protecting themselves from whatever enemy they now face. Child built his cast too large, leaving several characters with little to do but be interchangeable offscreen plot devices. A little work could have merged some of these and reduced the clutter considerably.

In Bad Luck, Reacher is shown as a numbers buff, playing around regularly with numerical patterns and codes and able to work some fairly complex math in his head. He's never displayed such abilities or habits before, but since they come in useful at several crucial plot points in this book, we may guess why he does so now.

Fans of straight-ahead soldier-of-fortune style adventuring, well-written and with some seriously stylish storytelling should have a fine old time with Lee Child and Jack Reacher. But they'd be advised to check out the first ten books, skip no. 11 and wait to see what no. 12, Nothing to Lose, has to offer.

If Someone Asks For Your Coat...

I can't say I'd recommend this course of action, but I do know when I see people do things like this, it reminds me God created us in his image, and every now and again some of that image shows forth.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

This Is Not a Joke

But it is a reason to try to dig out your own brain through your eyeballs...

This Is a Joke

For a little while longer it is, anyway...