Thursday, August 31, 2017

BIG Ol' Jet Airliner

As someone who has seen the movie Serenity several times, the first thing that came to my mind when this image popped up?


Actually, it is kind of cool to see a contrail from overhead. Especially when you know it's not crewed by psychotic cannibalistic berserkers.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Oops Again

I meant to post last week these two entries from the Are You There, God? It's Me, Generation X, where Jennifer shows her own kids enjoying the Aug. 21 eclipse and some pictures from the 1979 edition. The photos and memories make for some interesting contrasts and also show some intriguing similarities.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Yesterday I overlooked the centenary of the birth of Jacob Kurtzberg, better known as comic book artist Jack Kirby.

The relentless self-promotion machine that is Stan Lee has never been really clear about Kirby's role in the creation of some of Marvel Comics' iconics characters. They collaborated, but the degree of the load sharing shifts depending on which interview of either man you read.

But even if fully sussing all of this out isn't possible, Kirby's contribution to comic books and comic book storytelling can't be overlooked. There are people who draw comic books and there are artists that create at a more highbrow level. But if an artist is someone who creates a story or a connection with viewers through his or her own distinctive style, then Kirby is indeed a comic book artist.

His characters weren't particularly realistic but clearly carried a message of power and might. Kirby's eye dreamed up fantastic visual worlds, such as Thor's Asgard or the star-spanning sprawl of the New Gods worlds. Kirby's drawings make clear that a hero who doesn't show forth in some way as larger than life isn't much of a hero at all.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Service Interrupted?

The end of the next-to-last season of HBO's Game of Thrones series brought forth a number of analysis pieces suggesting that the show has degraded in quality even while it's skyrocketed in popularity. Some suggest that since the showrunners are now out ahead of George R.R. Martin's book series they lack his directing mind and are simply unable to produce work of the quality that Martin himself produced.

Different writers offer several reasons, but the main one seems to be the idea that the showrunners spent a lot of time in season seven on what's called "fan service," where they directed narrative strands towards what the show's fan base wants to see. Characters pair up, characters die, events happen, and all of it rests less on narrative logic and more on giving people what they want.

Of course, that's certainly possible. But most of those making the complaint suggest that the storyline should have gone different ways than it did. In other words, the problem isn't the idea of fan service itself so much as it's which fans got their service. I've never watched the show, but I have watched the clip of young Bella Ramsey kicking some major behind with her speech as Lyanna Mormont in season six, episode 10. Since I'm not a fan I won't ask for service, but if I did it would be to give her the dragons and the throne and everyone else get the heck out of her way. Which would also make the show over with quicker, and I can't complain about that.

Either way, the current loose schedule has the show wrapping up sometime in late 2018 or early 2019 (they need winter weather in order to have enough snow for the wintertime setting of the current episodes, and so won't start shooting until late this year). It may finish before Martin releases Winds of Winter, currently projected as the second-to-last of the "Song of Ice and Fire" series. It'll certainly end before he publishes A Dream of Spring, which he -- for now -- says will be the final SOIAF novel.

So every day is one day closer to not having to hear about this show anymore, and even if it won't get finished at a Lyanna Mormont pace that's not bad at all, I guess.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

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

Coming soon to a theater near you: Wicked Wicket: A Star Wars Story. In which the brave and formidable Ewok warrior turns to the Dark Side when an evil Sith Lord promises him working eyelids, an actual digestive tract and...other benefits.
Int. night. A ROOM carved into one of the gigantic trees on the Forest Moon of ENDOR. A torch flickers in one wall, and the DOOR opens. LEIA is seated on a bench in the room, and sighs when WICKET the EWOK enters.
Leia: Wicket? You're back! But I told you, it can never work between us; I'm a human and you're an Ewok. We're not...compatible.
WICKET steps closer and winks at LEIA.
Leia: My goodness! Your face can move? There's something different about you, isn't there? Something's...changed you!"
An actual smile appears on WICKET's face, and one eyebrow rises suggestively.  He moves closer to LEIA. Cut to LEIA's face as she glances downwards and gasps.
Wicket (languidly): Nub nub.
LEIA shakes her head no, and smiles seductively.
Leia: Doesn't look like it to me. They embrace.
Cut to a closeup of LUKE SKYWALKER, frowning.
Luke: I sense a disturbance in the Force...
Sounds very stupid, but since someone out there is floating the idea of Boba Fett and Yoda movies -- and apparently chatter on fan boards suggests a Jabba the Hutt movie -- I figured I'd get my oar in the water early.

There are currently eight Star Wars movies out now, with two more coming in the next nine months. Exactly half of those are worth watching a second time, and of those four only one -- Rogue One -- is outside of the original trilogy. I'd love to be proven wrong, but I can't imagine that either The Last Jedi, due out in December, or next May's standalone Han Solo movie are going to be added to that list.

The only person I can imagine who really really wants a Boba Fett solo movie is George Lucas, because it would get him off the hook for Stupidest Thing in Star Wars History, the creation of Jar Jar Binks. And if that don't scare you, meesa got no hope for you.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Give My Regards

On the Twisted Sifter photo blog, you can see a bigger version of the below picture, a colorized view of an early 20th century scene on New York City's Broad Street.

In addition to the colorized work by Sanna Dullaway, you can also see a Google Street View of the way that section of Broad Street looks today.

The modern shot must have been on a quiet day; the older photo seems a good deal livelier...

Friday, August 25, 2017


A couple of days ago I called out ESPN as being unbelievably dumb for removing a football announcer because of his name. The game involved the University of Virginia, recently the site of some tragic unpleasantness, and the announcer's name was Robert Lee. ESPN suggested that they had discussed the matter with Lee -- who is an American of Chinese descent -- and had offered to let him switch games to avoid mockery because his name resembled that of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

While I still think ESPN's explanation is so much horsehide, I have changed my mind about the removal of sports broadcasters based on how closely their names resemble soldiers who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Someone posted a link to this page, and I call it to Fox Sports' immediate attention.

Or if not immediate, at least before the next World Series.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Participatory Problem

Today's Sherman's Lagoon demonstrates that not every role in a class project is the same; some can be a little rougher than others:

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Appearing for the Defense

With five seasons of shows about the individual members under its belt, the Marvel-Netflix partnership last week brought out their team-up event, combining its four "street-level" heroes into a team (sort of) in The Defenders. It's got some really neat stuff in its eight episodes, but winds up aiming higher than it hits.

Luke Cage is back in Harlem after finishing his prison sentence, ready to try to help the people of his neighborhood better their lives. Jessica Jones is not exactly functional several months after dealing with the evil Kilgrave, but has taken the case of a wayward architect. Matt Murdock is throwing himself into his legal work and trying to rebuild a life without the red suit and vigilantism of "the Devil of Hell's Kitchen," Daredevil. And the Immortal Iron Fist Danny Rand, spurred by the last words of a dying man, has tracked the agents of the Hand to New York City. None of the four are keen on working together, and at least a couple of them aren't into the idea of fighting the Hand at all. But they will, because right now they are the only defense New York City has with any hope of stopping the Hand's destructive plans.

One knock against all of the single-hero shows was that the seasons were too long at 13 episodes apiece, stuffed with filler that slowed or even derailed their stories. Defenders clocks in at a breezy eight episodes, a good change that helps it quite a bit. It still needs a significant trim, but what's annoying filler over eight shows would have been deadly to 13. It carries some of the individual shows' flaws forward as well -- Finn Jones as Danny Rand seems to have taken acting lessons from Mark Hamill (and several scenes recall those of Hamill's most famous role) in that he can do breezy action and bravado pretty well but his "intense" manner is really just grating. Élodie Yung as Elektra still can't sell her character swerves from dark to light, and way too much of the narrative hangs on what Danny and Elektra do and don't do and why. Neither of them really lets us know those things; they're not bad but nowhere near good enough to overcome the holes the script leaves them.

Kristyn Ritter as Jessica, Charlie Cox as Matt and Mike Colter as Luke all handle their material better. Ritter is still written as a slightly less warped version of Eliza Dushku's Buffy character Faith and Colter isn't given enough to do, but they work out better. A lot of the time spent sitting around the police station listening to New York cops saying "You need to tell me what's going on" should have been spent letting Jessica and Matt play off their mutual perceptive abilities or letting Luke explore how his paternal character might influence the orphaned and privileged billionaire Danny. Colleen Wing, Danny's partner and a legitimately badass fighter in her own right, is relegated to the sidekick pen for too much of the second half of the series. Sigourney Weaver as Alexandria is chilling as the main driver of the Hand and its leader, but her front and center role through the first two thirds of the episodes fizzles out in the last two.

The Defenders' visuals may be the thing that saves the series from being the train wreck the script and cast weaknesses steer it towards. Cinematographers Matthew Lloyd and Jim McMillan's creative use of color helps bridge a lot of narrative gaps, and 4th episode director Phil Abraham and 5th episode director Uta Briesewitz offer clinics on how to make the most use of the tools that the script and the cast give you, also playing a lot with color, visuals, and scenes without dialog.

Whether the Marvel-Netflix project brings a second Defenders team-up to light is yet to be seen; next up is Jon Bernthal's The Punisher series and then each of the Defenders' primaries has their own season of shows on tap. But this season should show the company that fewer episodes can certainly be better. And maybe future crew can learn from the way Lloyd, McMillan, Abraham and Briesewitz take seriously the visual dimension of the comic book medium as a way of communicating story, and be able to use it to amplify a strong script instead of salvage a mediocre one.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Well That Was Quick

I saw several friends say how social media posts and news stories all day yesterday were focused not on hateful people and actions, or goofball politicians or whatnot, but on an amazing natural phenomenon, and how nice it was.

One day that lasted, and then ESPN hits peak stupid.

I've come to think of the 21st century as the "Hold My Beer Era," because whenever it seems like someone has done something so dumb it can't be topped someone else comes along, asks us to take said beverage and goes, "Challenge accepted."

Monday, August 21, 2017

Big Ol' Jet Airliner

There were a lot of cool pictures taken during today's eclipse of the sun, which had a totality path observable across a nice little stripe of the United States. Some of them were planned out well in advance, and some were not.

One of the ones that wasn't was the below by Kirsten Jorgensen, who was about ready to stop shooting when she saw a plane headed across the sky, and caught the image at exactly the right moment:

You can find the original at her Instagram page here.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Neither Rain Nor Sleet Nor Depth of Sea...

Although a couple more underwater mailboxes have popped up around the world, the post office box at Vanuatu lays claim to being the first such operation. It's 10 feet beneath the surface, about 160 feet from land, and is an actual post office box that will receive your special waterproof plastic postcard, marked with a special embosser so the postmark ink won't smear.

If you want to do the real experience, you have to snorkel, dive or hold your breath long enough to go below and float your card into the slot. Or you can ask someone able to do those things to drop it off for you. (There's also a land-based box for the wimps).

Then, at 3 PM each day, the mail is collected from the box to be sent off to its destination. The local post office used to train its folks to scuba dive so they could pick it up themselves, but found it easier to enlist the aid of local dive masters who could pick the mail up for them.

The story at Smithsonian says that the box in Malaysia is 130 feet below the water, which is the maximum depth for a certified, experienced recreational scuba diver using tanks with normal compressed air.

And it would seem that the most unsurprising thing about this whole idea is its origin: The local postmaster and a resort owner whipped it up over drinks.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Dig Straight Through to...Where Are We Again?

The saying is "Dig a hole clear to China," with the idea that China is on the opposite side of the world from us.

But as you can learn by having fun on this online "Antipodean Map" page, China is actually not directly on the other side of the world from the United States. "Antipodes" is the name for two points that are directly opposite each other on a solid object. New Zealand and Australia are called that because when they were first discovered by Europeans, they were considered to be "the other side of the world."

Someone who wanted to dig a hole through the Earth and come up in China would have to do two things:

1) Figure out how to survive the incredible heat and pressure of the Earth's core, and

2) Start in South America

Almost any straight line from the continental U.S. directly though the center of the Earth will wind up in the Indian Ocean. We have almost no antipodean land, in fact. Granada, CO, is the antipodes for the Íle Amsterdam, about halfway between Madagascar and Australia. It's home to a research station with about 30 workers who rotate on and off. Íle Saint-Paul, about 50 miles away and even smaller, is the antipodes for Cheyenne Wells, CO. Its research facility is not even permanently staffed.

Until someone fixes that whole temperature (just shy of 10,000º F) and pressure (3,600,000 atmospheres) thing, though, it'd probably make more sense to fly or take a boat.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Law and the Jungle

There's a legislature that has a rat problem. Doesn't narrow the field much, does it?

This legislature is the British Parliament and the rat problem is literal, as in members of ye olde genus Rattus scampering about offices, break rooms and cafeterias. A member of parliament brought four cats to address the matter but health and safety officials banned them -- demonstrating that even with that beautiful British diction, bureaucrats are unable to grasp facts with either hands or their feeble minds. Because several other government offices do allow cats to live on the premises and provide sharp, pointed arguments to Mickey's uglier cousins why they should relocate.

Some might say the bureaucrats are on the rats' side, sensing a kinship. This uncharitable suggestion insults at least one of the groups involved.

It's possible that the bureaucrats are worried about the example cats would set. They are seen to spend a great deal of their time sleeping but would probably accomplish their task nonetheless, after hours being an excellent time to present one's threats and ultimatums to the scurrilous scurriers with the proper level of bloodthirsty rending. By comparison, bureaucrats are usually very industrious while accomplishing next to nothing, and should the cats succeed in their mission some might wonder why those possessing opposable thumbs seem unable to do so as well.

The cats, of course, would not wonder. They would simply take a nap until another twitchy little nose tried to poke itself into the hallowed halls of the Palace of Westminster and then resume their work.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

All Is Not Lost?

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has said he doesn't see umpiring for his sport as a field amenable to automation. Which means no robot umpires.

Which means there are still limits to the dumbness of the changes that Manfred is willing to tolerate, despite evidence to the contrary.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Lines Around the Block

I know what you're thinking -- you see this Washington Post story about a company that offers to pay people to stand in line -- only if they're cool enough.

And you're saying, Friar, there's nothing about that for you. You are nowhere near cool enough to be selected to stand in line and be one of the beautiful people that draws in other people.

Au contraire, Faithful Reader. I am in fact way too cool to stand in line for something I wouldn't do unless someone paid me. Wait, what, you may ask?

You're not cool enough to know.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Petard, Hoist!

This item from the BBC News, ironically in its arts and entertainment section, notes something interesting about the dying magazine industry: Some of it seems not to be dying.

Writer Stephen McIntosh looked at a recent magazine and circulation report in England and found that news and news/opinion magazines like The Economist and The Spectator showed sales increases. Other similar publications also had some bumps, even factoring in things like paywalls for some online articles and other web-based content.

The people McIntosh talked to suggest that the rise of quickly-disseminated general news -- sometimes too quickly, in a fashion that has to be walked back or which proves later to be inaccurate -- means that people also want to have some analysis and context to help understand the blizzard of data thrown their way. Publications that can produce that get readers, and if they can make their content good enough, then they can get readers who will pay for it.

Celebrity, gossip and fashion mags, though, are still seeing sales slumps. I've got no opinion on the value of fashion magazines, but there seems little downside in the reduction of celebrity and gossip outlets. The slump's probably only worth one or two cheers, though, rather than three, since the content moves out of the checkout line and onto everyone's phones.

The one or two cheers comes because these particular organs have long been invested in things that turn out to be ephemeral or are of interest only because the people doing them have been in movies or television. A guy starts an affair at work and winds up leaving his wife for the other woman, but a few years later it turns out he's not that great a catch for her either. It happens all the time and if everyone involved lives in a trailer no one but those affected care much about it. But if those involved are named Jennifer, Brad and Angelina, well, then stop the press! We now even have celebrities who are famous for no reason whatsoever, who all seem to be named Kardashian or Jenner.

Having nailed their colors to the mast of ephemera, these folks now find themselves adrift because the ephemera has found a medium much better suited to it: The here-today-gone-in-20-minutes world of online celebrity gossip.

McIntosh notes that Vogue magazine recently did a large photo spread and interview with Jennifer Lawrence, a very good young actress who has been interesting before and may be again. But since all of the content went up online before the issue hit the stands or subscribers' hands, they took away any reason to actually buy the magazine. They're caught between offering enough online content to create buzz but keeping the free stuff at a low enough level that there's still a reason to pay for the rest. It's hard, though to feel sorry for publications that have trafficked in the least appealing aspects of the lives of people who just want to act, or sing, or live out their muse in some other way.

Whether the bump in news magazine sales is an actual long-term upward trend or just a bump has yet to be seen. But if the slide in the others' sales is a trend as well, then we can only hope the celebrity and gossip website will follow its path someday.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Truth With Pictures!

Just gonna let Mr. Opus do the talkin...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Faster Than Superfluid Helium...

I've often said that one the reasons I blog is because it lets me pretend I am Mike Royko.

Another reason is the opportunity I have to write, every now and again, about quark-gluon plasma. For some reason, this particular substance, existing only under the most extreme conditions in particle accelerators, is as much fun to type as it is to say, and occasionally during the blog's 9.5 years of existence something about it has crossed my path.

Today it's an article from Physics World, which reports that quark-gluon plasma has set a record as the fastest-rotating liquid yet created. The plasma is created when gold ions are fired into each other at great energies, and then the quarks that make up the ions become "deconfined," which means they break down into individual quarks instead of making up larger subatomic particles. The gluons that hold them together also break apart, and the substance that results is a state of matter called "plasma."

Since we're talking about amazingly small bits of matter, the collisions are usually at an angle, so the plasma starts out with a high rate of rotation. Scientists measure the speed by seeing what gets thrown off the glob of plasma as it spins.

The previous record holder for spin velocity was something called superfluid helium, which is a peculiar liquid-ish state of that gas reached when it is cooled to almost absolute zero. It has zero viscosity (the measure of how "thick" a liquid is -- pancake syrup has greater viscosity than water, for example), so it can spin up a vortex at 107 rotations per second. Quark-gluon plasma, by comparison, creates a vortex that spins at 1022 rotations per second. A tornado about 60 yards wide with 300-mph winds spins at about three-fourths of a revolution per second.

Cosmologists think that the universe, right after the Big Bang, was a lot like quark-gluon plasma until it cooled down enough for subatomic particles like protons and electrons to form, so they want to learn about it and see what it can tell us about that very early universe. It may even be able to explain the electoral victories of Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren.

Or maybe not. There's only so much one can ask of a substance, no matter how cool its name is.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Long View

The folks at Bored Panda compiled some very interesting long-exposure pictures seen at different photography sites around the internet, These shots are made by keeping the camera shutter open and allowing the single frame to "see" things move instead of just capturing one static image.

Although I shot a few of these kinds of pictures -- some inadvertently -- when I worked for the newspaper, I was shooting with regular film. I'm not 100% sure how the technique works with digital photography without the image just turning into a video. But someone obviously knows, and thus we have some cool stuff like this:

Don't know why California is spending stacks of cash on high-speed rail when it appears that Budapest already has warp-drive technology on its trains.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Darkness Falls Across the Land

From the time machine, Uncle Walter talking about something that's going to happen just a few days from now,  a full eight years after his death:

1979 Total Solar Eclipse TV News Report from Michael Kentrianakis on Vimeo.

The interesting thing will be seeing if the nightly newscast report of the eclipse coming August 21 will be anywhere near four and a half minutes long. Broadcast news attention spans are a whole lot shorter these days.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Now in his seventh outing with the enigmatic Victor the assassin, Tom Wood is starting to write himself into a bit of a corner. On the one hand, if he leaves Victor as a completely amoral killing machine who never changes, then he's stuck writing the same book over and over.  Even with Wood's skills, that's going to wear out not long after the half-dozen mark -- Andrew Vachss' career criminal Burke changed little and became repetitive, going downhill after book #8 with an exception or two.

But if Victor grows as a character and regains his humanity or develops a conscience, then eventually he's going to get to a place where he doesn't want to stay as a pure killer for hire and the series hits a stop, like Barry Eisler's John Rain. Mark Greaney seems so far to have crossed this divide with his Gray Man series, but he's only one book into the rehabbed version of his killer for hire, so we have to wait and see.

The other alternative is to go forward and then back up, which is unsatisfying and unfortunately the choice Wood makes in The Final Hour as he puts Victor back on a collision course with Raven, the female assassin he was uneasily allied with in The Darkest Day. Victor finds himself with a much higher profile than he likes, especially as it concerns people with the desire and ability to end his career and his life. So he decides to go as far underground as possible with a permanent solution -- have Raven kill him and then he can sink far enough below the radar to re-establish himself.

Naturally, it's not that simple, because Raven has her own share of enemies with whom she has to deal, and before the story winds up, both predators could find themselves each other's prey into the bargain.

Wood's smooth style is as elegant as ever; although this is most definitely a rough-and-tumble adventure narrative he never falls back into stodgy action-writer prose or techno-babble. But in addition to the above-mentioned hurry up and slow down problem, the situations Victor and Raven face quite obviously have more layers, waiting for subsequent novels to be uncovered. That's fine in itself, but it leaves Hour murkier than it should be. If those later books furnish the confrontation it sets up, that will help the series out in that area, but Wood will still need to figure out how to keep his character's arc from flatlining.
Jonathan Grave succeeds at his hostage rescue missions because he doesn't let anything else get in the way of the goal of getting the PC ("Precious Cargo") away from danger and back to safety. Other people, other issues are not his concern, no matter what he may feel about their situations. So even though something's gone wrong with the mission to rescue a kidnapped federal agent in Final Target, he's got backup plans and he and his partner "Boxers" won't have any great trouble getting out of the mess they're in.

Until he runs into the orphanage with a bunch of kids and Grave realizes he's the only chance they have of escaping torture and death at the hands of the local drug lord pursuing Grave, Boxers and their rescued hostage. If the kids don't go with him, they'll all die. But if they do, then they might still die, only they'll bring the three men down with them.

In this 9th Grave novel, Gilstrap has a good handle on the roles his characters play in their adventures. Grave and Boxers quip and snipe at each other, Boxers sees an uncomplicated black-and-white world where anything he doesn't think is his problem isn't his problem, Grave often doubts himself over the lines he's crossed and violence he's committed in the names of his various missions. The action set pieces hold their tension and keep the novel's pace nice and quick, and the plot hangs together through the required suspense thriller twists.

Target is more or less an extended chase scene, with some interludes back in Washington, D.C. as Grave's other team members try to unravel the mystery of the snafus that started this mess. Although sometimes the physical goals and the different groups involved get a little fuzzy, the presence of the orphans offers a new wrinkle that makes Target one of the stronger entries in the Grave series.
The first four Myron Bolitar novels were mostly fun romps that touched the sports agent turned crime solver and opened up some old doors in his past but never left any real new marks. But 1998's One False Move left him broken personally and professionally, so 1999's The Final Detail finds Myron on the beach. Literally, on a remote Caribbean island with a woman he's just met. No one, including his business partners and his family, know where he is. But when his friend Win sails up to the beach in a yacht, Myron knows there's trouble he can't run from any more.

The trouble is the murder of one of Myron's clients, Clu Haid, and the arrest of his business partner, Esperanza Diaz, for the crime. Esperanza has hired an attorney herself and won't let Win or Myron even try to help her. But Myron can't stay away and begins his own investigation, even though it becomes clear through the arc of the story that he is not yet back to his old self. His judgment and thinking still impaired, Myron may find himself not only the target of a police investigation but also of the forces that targeted Clu -- who won't be satisfied at just arresting him.

Coben uses his complicated story to begin to try to grow Myron up a bit -- his willingness to cross legal and ethical lines in pursuit of what he considers justice has consequences, and he begins to see them the more he looks at things in front of him as well as those in his past. Although the tone remains fast and funny, deploying both quips and quirky characters at a rapid pace, Coben opens up the consequences of the kinds of action Myron has taken and tries to move his characters deeper into a universe with actual morality and context. It's murkily done, as Myron's self-doubt veers close to moping and as a villain asserts a moral privilege that most of the rest of the book has said is in no way warranted.

Detail marked a different direction for the Bolitar books as Coben tried to mix the upbeat swashbuckling of Myron and Win's earlier work with some darker and more poignant themes. He had mixed success with the new recipe, hitting some very high notes but also some serious clunkers. As an early step on the new path, Detail isn't firm enough yet to be either, and winds up a middling outing with the world's only crime-solving sports agent.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

R-r-r-r-rings Have R-r-r-r-ridges!

At least, Saturn's do, as shown by this photo from the Cassini spacecraft.

When one of Saturn's tiny nearby moons is in a certain position related to the rings, then it affects how dense is the material that makes them up. The regular orbits of the moon produce alternating dense and less dense areas of the ring, but I blame Donald Trump.

No, I don't. I blame Hillary Clinton.

OK, not really. I blame neither of them. At least not for this.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Pickin, Pickin & Grinnin

There were a lot of great guitar videos to choose from to honor Glen Campbell on the event of his passing today at 81. Any of the "Dueling Banjos" clips, whether from 1973 with Carl Jackson or 2012 with his daughter Ashley. The "William Tell Overture" clips, either with the full orchestral accompaniment or just a backing band. A ton more, and not hard to find.

But since Campbell often had to war against the perception of him as a goofball country bumpkin, I picked this one where he is paired with another fantastic string-slinger generally thought of as more doofus than musician, Roy Clark.

Watch the fingers fly!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Test Pattern

Lots of road time today. On the upside, I had a Coke Zero that inspired me to rebel against the rule of an unjust king:

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Ah, the Sound

When the crack of a bat is followed by the roar of a crowd realizing that this ball could...go...all...the...way!

That's a mighty fine sound right there, my friends.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Test Pattern

Attempting to write a post, but the local power co-op flinches at lightning and everything keeps blinking out. Trying again tomorrow.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Parents Just Don't Understand

In today's Calvin and Hobbes reprint, we see yet another example of the rule-bound establishment thwarting the imagination of a young scientist and attempting to keep hidden the impact of his diligent research and experimentation.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Not Even James Bond...

... could make an AMC Hornet look cool. But the one he tried it in is up for auction, just the same.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

No Sparkling Allowed

Apparently the movie Lost Boys was a bigger deal for some people than I thought, because I've seen a ton of 30-year tributes to the mullets-and-mousse vampire movie that had probably the most fun with ye olde nosferatu of any movie until Buffy and her pals showed up.

I mostly remembered it as my introduction to Australian rocker Jimmy Barnes, who joined with INXS on "Good Times," a cover song included in the movie's soundtrack. A quickie video spliced some movie scenes into an earlier performance clip of the band and Barnes playing the tune. I may be mistaken, but it's just possible the fellows had consumed some good ol' Aussie lager or similar beverage before filming.

The post title, of course, is a reference to whatever the heck those things in the Twilight movies were supposed to be. No self-respecting stake would want to be wasted on one of them.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

What The?

Imagine you spent four or so years enrolled in a program to study journalism. You took classes that helped you sharpen your writing, and taught you some of the ins and outs of interviewing and how to get the information a news story needed to have. You learned how to make sure that you covered all of the bases in a story, not skipping details that you knew but your readers might not.

So you get out and eventually you wind up with a job at the Boston Globe. That's a top tier, old-line newspaper that often breaks stories with national implications. You're not in New York City, but you're in a place where Stuff Happens, and you are one of the people charged with making sure folks know about it.

Then you pitch a story about how counties in the path of this month's total eclipse of the sun voted mostly for Donald Trump for president.

What ought to happen is one of two things. Maybe you wake up and realize in sobriety's cold early light that just because something sounded good when you were drunk doesn't mean it would sound good in the real world, so you keep it to yourself and save a lot of embarrassment. Or you actually go through with it and you find all of the money and time you've invested in your journalism education and career doesn't keep the editor from laughing at you like you walked in front of the Queen with your fly down.

But this being 2017 and Donald Trump being the sum total of all evil in the eyes of many, you get permission to write and run the story. Of course, you quickly find out there's really no story so you have to pad like hell with non sequitirs and old news, but that doesn't matter because it gives you a chance to get in some swipes at the president.

And so you wind up with this, little knowing that at some point in the future when the Boston Globe is either dead or a supermarket shopper given away free at Roche Brothers, your story will be what someone writes on its tombstone.