Saturday, January 30, 2010

The real reason the Internet was created

YouTube might not make any money but really, does it matter so long as it keep providing access to videos like these? Creative and fun and NOT involving cute kittens...

The Pink Glove Dance to raise awareness of breast cancer:

and the world's greatest "Save the Date" wedding announcement:

America's Cup in Dry Dock

OK, I'm about to put on my grumpy 40-year old man hat now...

I remember when the America's Cup challenge was all about gripping sailing. I was transfixed in our kitchen in Providence watching the live coverage from Newport as Australia II beat Dennis Conner to wrest the Cup away from the U.S. in 1983. I remember sitting in a waterfront bar in 1995 in California with people shouting, cheering, and booing as we watched New Zealand beat Dennis Conner in the waters off San Diego (way to go, takes something special to lose the Cup twice!). Hell, I'll watch Wind whenever it comes on just for the cool (if overly simplified) sailing scenes. Well, that and the fact that so much of it was filmed around some of my favorite spots in Newport and Jamestown.

Sadly, the real America's Cup has been reduced to an unending string of legal head butting between billionaires that does the sport of sailing no good, disgusts the people who enjoy the competition, and just makes these egomaniacs look like spoiled 12-year olds. Now, the latest series of court challenges may simply result in the upcoming 1-on-1 regatta being canceled after a three-year delay.

What a waste. Somebody toss these bozos overboard and get back to sailing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ah, so that's how it's done

A laugh-out loud funny dissection of how a typical TV news segment is created:

(Thanks to the folks at the Wait Wait blog for spotting this one)

Monday, January 25, 2010

He's a Level 3 Felon with -4 Intelligence and a Helm of Obliviousness

From the "Who says prison can't be fun?" files...

A 33-year old Wisconsin man serving a life sentence for first degree intentional homicide lost his federal lawsuit to allow him to continue playing Dungeons & Dragons behind bars. Apparently, he believed it infringed on his right of free speech, unlike the sledgehammer he'd used to bludgeon his sister's boyfriend to death with prior to landing in prison.

Kudos to the appeals court that declared, while donning its powerful Cloak of Duhhhhhh, that
"After all, punishment is a fundamental aspect of imprisonment, and prisons may choose to punish inmates by preventing them from participating in some of their favorite recreations."
On the other hand, if it keeps Ragnar of the Sibling Sledgehammer and his buddies from killing other inmates with their +3 Toothbrushes of Stabbing, it might not be such a bad thing.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Senatorial Appendix

Over time, evolution leads to the selection of new dominant traits that allow a species to survive and thrive. At the same time, other characteristics atrophy or simply reach a point where they become vestigial features that serve no useful or discernible function.

In the era of the permanent minority filibuster, we've just witnessed the latter occur with the sole valuable function of the vice president (excluding his or her role as designated successor to the president) – serving as president of the Senate and breaking ties.

Not too long ago, I remember that it was a big deal when the Veep might have to jet back to Washington to be on hand to cast a tie-breaking vote. Al Gore left the campaign trail leading up to the 2000 election to be ready to do it. Mephistopheles Cheney loomed over some of the close Senate votes when the votes were tight.

No more.

With the filibuster firmly entrenched in the Senate (the Republican minority used it 138 times as part of their recent "just say no" campaign) and no value or benefit to bipartisan efforts, the idea that we'd ever have another tie vote in the Senate seems laughable. There's no way a bill that was so close could ever get that far now as the minority would prevent it from reaching the floor for a full vote, simply because they say they have 41 votes.

And so, with the apparent creation of a non-constitutional supermajority rule in the Senate, the office of the vice president effectively loses its sole officially mandated power. The function for which the Veep was intended no longer exists. Joe Biden and his successors, legislatively speaking, have been reduced to a walking, talking, fundraising appendix. He must be so proud.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Words fail me.

Just how totally incompetent is the Democratic Party? Is Martha Coakley the standard bearer for this "we can't get out of our own way" party?

Ted Kennedy's seat...what you would have thought was just about the surest win ever for a Democrat even in this age of Tea Partiers and Sarah Palin and Coakley manages to lose it, the national party wasn't paying attention and the White House tries to ride to the rescue far too late in the face of growing public dissent regarding Democratic policies.

Just disgusting. What a waste.

Frankly, I loathe Karl Rove and all he stands for but you do have to admire how he kept the Republican party in line for six years, even if it was done with a nail-studded jackboot on their throats.

I can't believe I just said anything positive about Karl Rove.

It's evidence of just how foul a taste the Democratic ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory has left in my mouth.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Movie Review: Two quickies about two blockbusters

It's been a while since I've written any movie reviews. We actually haven't seen much that was new of the last few months. Nevertheless, we finally hauled ourselves to the movie theatre a few times over the last few weeks to see two of the big winter blockbusters -- Avatar and Sherlock Holmes. Both cost megabucks to make and are raking in megabucks at the box office but realistically, neither of them left me feeling either so fired up or disgusted that I immediately had to write a long review about either of them.

Still, I do want to get back on the movie reviewing horse so here are some quick thoughts on each of these.


Let's be honest -- it's a shamelessly derivative story ripped off from multiple sources, including Dances with Wolves, Ferngully, Medicine Man, Pocahontas, and many more. Anyone who makes a case that Avatar's story is in anyway original is out to lunch or has been living in a closet for the last 25 years or so. Dances with Aliens, anyone?

Does it bother anyone else that the Na'vi look like they're just blue catlike humans with boobs who have been put through Willy Wonka's taffy stretcher but all the other creatures on Pandora have six legs and breathe through gills in their shoulders? How did that evolutionary divergence happen?

Bonus points to scenery chewing Giovanni Ribisi for channeling Paul Reiser's untrustworthy corporate hack Carter Burke from James Cameron's Aliens. Plus, they must have gotten a deal by recycling the big exoskeletons that Sigourney Weaver so ably used to kick Alien Queen butt in the grand finale of that 1986 classic (and there's no sarcasm intended there...I absolutely love Aliens, one of the great sci-fi films of all time).

However, all of those bothersome little details (and many others) don't matter in the grand scheme of things if you're looking for spectacle. It's a brilliant movie to look at as it creates an alien world and the Na'vi at a dazzling level that I think has only been achieved twice before -- in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, simply based on how powerful it was for me when I first saw it, the original Star Wars trilogy. You forget you're watching CGI and just get completely immersed in it.

This is absolutely a big screen movie. Don't wait to for it to come out on DVD if you really want to experience the world of Pandora.


The interaction between Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law is outstanding and really the only impressive thing about this film beyond the overblown overacting by villain Mark Strong (personally, I think he was a much better villain in Stardust) and the poor casting of Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler. In the end, I found Sherlock Holmes to be moderately entertaining while watching it though there was at least one moment in the theatre when I looked at my watch wondering when it would all end. Then, when I finally did leave the theatre, I discovered that I'd left behind most of my memories of this movie as well. A trifle at best, I'd wait for the DVD and then inevitable sequel.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lights Outside the Window

I watch the lights flicker past outside the window.

I want them to slow down. Too fast means we will reach our destination too quickly.

I usually can't just watch the night and the lights go by when in the car. I usually do the driving and it is my wife sitting in the passenger seat, relaxed and able to watch the lights.

Tonight, she drives.

Forest was always the more curious of my two cats. Originally there were three – Cecilia (Cecil for short), Scott, and Forest – named after my favorite writer. But Scott turned out to be too young to separate from his mother so I brought him back to the farm.

I was left with Cecil, the grumpy, lazy one, and Forest, the cross-eyed neurotic one who eventually discovered a new side of herself as the house badass when my my wife brought Annabel into the family. Together they were a striking pair, a mix of Siamese and farm cat. My original vet joked that they were so distinctive that they should be a breed of their own. So I dubbed them "Mongolian White Breasted Calicos.

I want my wife to slow down even though I know that she isn't driving quickly. She doesn't want to reach our destination any more than I do. But she keeps her hands on the wheel, shifting when necessary, and trying to choke off the sobs.

I simply sit there in the passenger seat, my arms wrapped about the warm bundle of fur, stroking her head and ears and chin, murmuring how she is such a good cat and such a funny girl. I ask her who else was I going to scold for sneaking potato chips off my plate.

She doesn't really respond. She curls up quietly, burying her head in my arm and occasionally turning her head to look out the window at the lights flashing by.

When she does, I look out the window with her.

She adored potato chips, especially Cape Cod Reduced Fat and Wavy Lays. You haven't laughed until you've seen a cat try to eat potato chips using those stiletto-like teeth...crumbs everywhere and this wide open mouthed smacking of teeth and lips. And then she'd run laps around the island in the kitchen when my wife would open a can of tuna. We counted nine non-stop laps once before she got to attack the plate of "tuna juice." We'll just ignore the great "walking on the warm brownies" incident.

She was a leaner. It was like she was part golden retriever. If you were on the couch, she didn't want to be in your lap...she wanted to be next to you and leaning against you. Or burying her face in the cushion next to your hip with her butt in the air like a somersault frozen in mid-tumble.

She never really liked riding in a car and she loathed cat carriers. The 15-minute ride to our vet usually involved a healthy amount of low moaning, occasional yowls, and once a bout of projectile vomiting right through the grill of the cat carrier that would have done Linda Blair proud.

Tonight, she isn't going to ride in the carrier.

Tonight, we don't want her to be scared or stressed or upset or sick.

Tonight, my wife drives and Forest lies curled protectively in my arms. She looks out the window, her tired eyes lighting up with curiosity at the shapes and lights and noises and I turn my head and rest my cheek on her and watched the lights go by with her.

She shifts in my arms, opening her mouth with one of her distinctive soundless meows. I think she just forget to make noise sometimes.

She'd been losing weight, which was a surprise given that we'd nicknamed her "The Stomach" years before in tribute to her frenzied desire to eat her food and everyone else's though she never got fat. This time was different. This time it was cancer and only six weeks after the disease took our beloved Annabel from us. It isn't fair. How could we be faced with losing two of our cats in such a short span of time?

However, she wasn't in pain and was up and about. If she kept eating and staying involved with us, then we should enjoy the time, our vet advised. If we wished, we could have attempted surgery but Forest was fifteen and a half years old, a tiny little cat who hadn't been eating much. It would have been cruel, unfair, and selfish of us.

So I brought her home from the vet and we hoped we'd have at least another few weeks before she let us know it was time.

We had two days.

And so we're riding in my car, this furry little creature who won her way into my heart more than 15 years ago cradled like a baby in my arms. I think she knows that something different is going on, that something's changed.

She looks out the window at the farms and the houses and the fields going by. She's not trying to go anywhere but she's engaged by this new experience. She stares at the taillights of the cars in front of us and then twists around as colored holiday lights pass on our right. I wonder what she thinks of them.

I don't want us to reach our destination. I want the lights to either slow down or just keep moving, whatever way will keep us from arriving at the vet's office.

And then we're there and my wife goes inside to make sure that it will be OK for us to bring Forest inside just in my arms and wrapped in her favorite blanket, a red afghan knit by my mother, rather than the cat carrier that will just upset her.We want to keep her calm and relaxed so that her last minutes with us are not filled with fear.

Forest had a purr like a Mack truck. It was an almost deafening rumble. As we sat in the house before we left for the vet, I held her in my arms and closed my eyes and listened to her purr. It made my chest vibrate. In the car, she watches the lights go by. In the vet's office, she looks around but stays in my lap. But she never purrs again. The last time was when we were sitting in our living room.

She goes to sleep quietly, with my wife and I stroking her fur and telling her through the tears how much we love her and how she's the best kitty. Her head droops and then she's gone.

We drive home, my wife in the passenger seat crying quietly and me driving, numb, heartbroken, watching the lights go by outside the windows.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


A little more than a year ago, I wrote about a fascinating animated presentation of the key events in the U.S. Civil War as well as the horrific death toll. Now, has created a similar animated map but instead of the Civil War, the focus is on job loss on a month-by-month and county-by-county basis nationwide starting in January 2007 and continuing through October 2009. It's eye-opening to say the least.