March 31, 2007

Rock the Vote

Go on over to and make sure to vote in the rockin'est tournament on the web. It's like March Madness, but with bands.

And this post is way shorter than that Scotland post a couple of days ago.

March 30, 2007

Vocal Impressions

Now there's a fun game...

Take some of the most recognizable voices in the land and ask folks to describe those voices in creative ways.

We're not talking about listening to Morgan Freeman and saying that his voice is nice, deep, rich or even anything as pedestrain as sonorous. Instead, we're talking about saying that Freeman's voice is a silk trombone...what rich river-bottom soil feels like...God to the rhythms of the Kodo Drummers...

Marylin Monroe is described as a voice that would slow down a hummingbird in midair..a voice to make a 7-year-old boy think differently about girls...the slow unfolding of a pink cashmire sweater...

Jack Nicholson as what's left of a grin when you take the smile away...awakening in the middle of the night to the smell of a fine cigar being smoked by a burglar robbing your house...the tarnished silver ring you just can't shine...

And the game's not over just yet...

The first round (Freeman, Monroe, Truman Capote, Patsy Cline) as is the second round (Nicholson, Norah Jones, Cliff Edawrds).

But the third round (Bob Dylan, Sean Connery, Mae West, Odetta) is still fair game. Send 'em your thoughts after listening to the samples.

March 29, 2007

How I long for the bonnie banks...

It's been thirteen years now since I first read The Electric Brae by Andrew Greig, a book subtitled A modern romance and one that spoke to me during that summer after my sophomore year at Wabash and just before I headed to Scotland for a year of study at the University of Aberdeen. The book is still one of my favorites, and I now own that library copy in which I found my then ex-girlfriend's (now wife's) bookmark just a year later. I've probably read the book a half dozen times, and I still pick it up every couple of years for a read through.

The Electric Brae itself is little more than a hillside in the county of Ayr in southwest Scotland where the landscape provides the illusion that anything allowed to roll freely down the road is actually rolling uphill.

The landmark may have disappointed me if I'd ever made it to that part of the Ayrshire countryside, but my year spent in Scotland certainly didn't come even remotely close to disappointing me. I learned more about myself in that year - a year that I spent in the company of people who had no idea who I was and where I was entirely free to define myself as I chose - and I thought I'd take a post to point out some of the wonderful places that I was lucky enough to see in that year.

From my reading of the Brae, I had one item on my list of sites that I had to see, and that was the Old Man of Hoy, a stone formation that stands on the coast of the Orkney Islands, a long ferry ride from the north coast of Scotland. I finally made it to the Old Man - or at least the ferry I was on made it past the Old Man on its way to Stromness, home of the Piers Arts Centre that I absolutely fell in love with. The Orkneys also hold the wonders of Skara Brae, a 5000-year-old archeological site, and the beautiful and simple Italian Chapel.

The Orkney Island weren't the only bits of Scotland not attached to the mainland to which I bumbled. There was the Isle of Skye, the gorgeous island to the west of Scotland. I spent a few days there with Kristen, but that was in the spring of 1995, before the Skye Bridge opened up, connectin Kyle of Localsh and Kyleakin. It may be more convenient to get to Skye now, but I'm happy that I got to kill a Sunday morn with Kristen killing time in a pub 'til the first ferry of the morning headed across the Kyle.

There was also the Isle of Arran where Luke, Kristen, and I bumbled around from the adventure playground past beautiful waterfalls and toward a gap that we never quite made it to - never really knowing whether it was just 'round the next curve or twenty miles down the path. I also got my only chance to play miniature golf in all of Scotland while we were on Arran.

The island were gorgeous, but I actually spent a lot more time in the cities of Scotland:
  • The city that I got to know best was, of course, Aberdeen. I walked from my flat in Hillhead Hall through gorgeous Seaton Park past the Machar on the way to the old University. Hillhead was only a ten or so minute walk from the North Sea, and I spent many an afternoon or morning walking the beach, and one amazing morning watching the sun rise (at 4:00 in the morning) over the ocean on my last day in Abdereen.
  • There were a couple of visits to Edinburgh with its Royal Mile dominated by the imposing Castle at one end and Holyrood Palace at the other. Princes Gardens parallel that Royal Mile and are an amazing example of metroscaping - having originally been a loch that the city filled in to make a wonderful park.
  • As the industrial mirror image to Edinburgh's seat of culture, Glasgow. The sandstone city still reflects its industrial roots but does have some wonderful museums: the Burrell Collection, Kelvingrove art gallery, and the amazing Botanic Gardens. I spent a couple of lonely days in Glasgow between travelling partners - having left Luke after seeing Stonehenge (England's sites will come another day) and before I met up with Kristen in...
  • Ayr - home to the aforementioned and illusory Brae. There wasn't much to see in Ayr, but nearby Culzean Castle (more on that in a few lines) was worth the trip.
  • I took two trips to Inverness - the largest city near Loch Ness, so the city most well known as part of the Highlands. In all honesty, Inverness didn't make much of an impression on me. Sorry for even mentioning it, folks.
  • St. Andrews, on the other hand, was gorgeous and beautiful right on the Firth of Fourth. The Royal and Ancient was beautiful, even for somebody who isn't all that into golf, and across the way is a beautiful ruined abby.
And Scotland just wouldn't be Scotland without some castles:
  • My absolute favorite - and one I got to visit probably four times - was Dunnottar Castle overlooking the lovely town of Stonehaven. Dunnottar is stunning on the coast, overlooking the sea, looking entirely impenetrable. Dunnottar was an hour bus ride from Hillhead, and I took the ride a number of times, sometimes enjoying the cliff walk back into Stonehaven.
  • I also visited the two most well-known (or at least most oft seen) castles of Scotland - Urquhart Castle overlooking Loch Ness, many of the pictures of which contain some American pointing out into the inky depths of the Loch and looking foolishly amazed - and Eilean Donnan out on its island, something that most photographers seem to have never stepped foot on. I made it onto the island, however, and was lucky enough to be greeted by a lovely dead sheep just over the railing of the bridge as it opened onto the island. Good times, folks
  • There were also a number of much more well-appointed castles such as Glamis Castle - home to the Hamlet-imortalized Thane of Glamis - and Culzean Castle complete with its room still reserved for President Eisenhower in honor of everything that he did for the world in leading the allied forces in WWII.
  • And finally there was the most ruined of all the castles - Slains Castle - must more well knows for the Bullers of Buchan that it overlooks. The Bullers are a gorgeous cliff that has been undercut by the sea and hosting some amazing cliff scenery and - weirdly enough - puffins.
I feel as though I've slighted the nation of Scotland, but this is what I've got to offer today.

Oh, that and one of the rockin'est versions of "Loch Lomond":

March 28, 2007

Suffering for beauty

I'm sorry, but I'm thinking that no matter how hot, sexy, whatever the heck you happen to end up looking like when you do this, it's probably not worth it because you're gonna kill your frickin' back.

Plus there's the fact that I really just don't understand half of the moves that they're talking about.

March 27, 2007

I know you care, so...

My two fantasy baseball teams...and details of the leagues...

1st league...I'm the commish...standard 10 fantasy categories...head-to-head...twelve teams...

C - AJ Pierzynski (I can't spell it, but he better hit)
1B - Gary Sheffield (I smell a comeback and 40 HR)
2B - Josh Barfield (soon to be traded to Calen for a song)
3B - Troy Glauss (power hitter...also SS-eligible)
SS - Miguel Tejada (I drafted like it was 3 years ago, shut up)
OF - Jason Bay (solid, always solid)
OF - Carlos Lee (he was great with the Cubs before he got hurt last year)
OF - Mike Cameron (whata ya mean that was Derek Lee?)
U - Nick Swisher (1B/OF...backup for Sheffield)

P - Johan Santana (my overall first pick)
P - Trevor Hoffman (again, solid as a rock)
P - Jered Weaver (out for one/two's hoping it's not longer)
P - Cole Hamels (Cy Young in waiting)
P - Barry Zito (buoyed by Bonds' chase)
P - Bob Wickman (he's pitching in the NL, how hard can it be?)

BN - Javier Vazquez (other guys were drafting guys with that ` thing, I had to)
BN - Octovio Dotel (comeback candidate #2)
BN - Freddy Garcia (he was good like five years ago, right?)
BN - Nick Johnson (more of a safety net for Sheffield)

And in the 10-team league...12 categories (including OPS & K/BB)...head-to-head

C - Joe Mauer (already hurt...awesome!)
1B - Gary Sheffield (I know, I've said it before)
2B - Dan Uggla (he was good once, right?)
3B - Bill Hall (had him last year...hope he repeats)
SS - Jose Reyes (my first pick)
OF - Jason Bay (why draft different guys?)
OF - Mike Cameron (5 tool player about five years too late)
OF - Raul Ibanez (he's got a ~ and a `...take that!)
U - Travis Hafner (with OPS, he'll rock even harder)

SP - Brandon Webb (sinkerball extraordinaire)
SP - Jered Weaver (I've got a soft spot, I'll admit it)
SP - CC Sabathia (fat toad)
RP - Bob Wickman (fourth player in both leagues)
RP - Josh Johnson (he qualifies there)
P - Chris Capuanao (big hit for me two years ago)
P - Ervin Santana (who?)

BN - Ken Griffey Jr (worth a last round draft flier)
BN - Ryan Freel (eligible in three positions)
BN - Rich Hill (up and comer for the Cubs - so he'll die soon)
BN - Javier Vazquez (make that five players)
BN - Zach Duke (another flier)

So, what're your thoughts?

March 26, 2007

Linkity link sensations

Ah a link bloggers life for me...
  • Looks like the Grand Canyon's newest attraction has opened up - and just to convince people that the insane walkway made of glass is safe. I know that it's probably just fine and safe and everything, but I still think I'd rather eat glass than walk on it that high above the Canyon.
  • Holy schiznits, Tubby Smith is heading to Minnesota. Looks like the girl and I will have some company on our vacation this summer. I guess the fans never got over the fact that his first year was 35-4 with a national championship. It's all been downhill since then with his craptacular 260-83 (by my count) record in his ten years as UK coach. God, he sucked.
  • Chuck a Dwarf - my new high is getting to round five.
  • Steve Alford hired at New Mexico the further they get this pompus snot from the Midwest and his New Castle hometown, the better. I rooted for him when he was raining down threes at IU, but the jerk became dead to me once he was a pain in the backside as Manchester College's coach playing at Wabash and walking off the court when his team was playing poorly.
  • Nice article about some impressive trees 'round the world
  • A blogger chose to eat for a month on $1 a day. Here are his thoughts throughout the month. It's an interesting read, and much more compelling than his follow-up of cartoonist for a month.
  • Caught a few minutes of Warriors of Virtue, and I'm not sure I've seen a freakier few minutes of film - very streaky, highly affected & effected fight scenes for a kids' film. I think I'll have to hunt this one down.
  • Some odd facts, figures, and trivia about Oscar awards, bumbled into while looking up the last movie to sweep the Oscars - Silence of the Lambs, in case you were curious.
  • How to declutter your desk and keep all your computer peripherals neatly organized. This may be a summer project at work for me, because I'm quickly getting fed up with the way my computer set-up looks.
  • I'm a bit of a curious lexicographer, so a website that looks at origins of various phrases and sayings seems interesting enough, and I've spent a fair bit of time skimming through it.
  • I think The Ultimate Warrior was totally bonkers - and might be more bonkers now that he's gone crazy, nutso religious.
  • The best comic strip ever - combining my love of D&D and chemistry.
  • Last year I pointed out that a minor league team was offering a burger on a Krispy Kreme donut. This year, I point out that the same team is offering deep-fried sliders. Oh, god, I would love that.

March 25, 2007

Perfection on the grass

I've written about baseball a few times before, and it's about time that the rightful sport of America steps back onto center stage.

So I present you with this year's first round of baseball links and stories. First, the baseball blogs and sites that I track regularly:And now the stories of the day:
  • 2006's All-Lucky Team - looks at the hitters who got the biggest breaks last year and probably should be avoided like the plague for fantasy drafts this year
  • A Zumaya article - a pretty typical spring training article including a mention of his devestating ability to change speeds from a 102mph fastball to an 85mph change-up
  • 2007 milestones - a look at what records we could see broken and milestones reached this year
  • Cheater's Guide to Baseball - an Amazon book that looks like it might be fun to skim through
  • a hometown article about Joe Mauer - and why I may be worrying about my first draft pick this year
  • Article about Pedro Martinez - reminding us just how frickin' awesome some of these athletes really are...
    His program for the day called for 25 throws at 45 feet, 50 at 60 feet, and 25 at 75 feet, the last distance an increase in length from what he had been doing the previous week.

    Remarkably, at the two shorter distances, he threw to his personal trainer, Chris Correnti (who was formerly with the Sox as an assistant trainer), with his eyes closed. Why pretend to be blindfolded? The point was to help Martinez be consistent with his release point and feel free with his motion. It was impressive to watch him hit Correnti’s glove almost every time.

    And this was no soft toss session. At one point, a New York writer sitting inside a media workroom not far from the field came out to investigate who was making someone’s glove pop so loudly.
Seriously, man, I love this time of the year. Baseball's just getting started for the year, March Madness is in full swing, if only there were still some sort of real basketball tourney to follow, life would be perfect.

March 24, 2007

The challenges of Cincinnati baseball

With Griffey Jr moving to right field and a pitching staff that's being held together with sticky tape and glue, baseball here in Cincy can be tough enough, but now Baseball Prospectus is piling on with this article.

The article looks at the size of the various television markets in major league baseball, and it turns out that Cincy is among the smallest markets in the league - coming in at third from the bottom in terms of population according to the US Census Bureau. The matro area (which now officially includes Middletown and will probably include Dayton in the next decade) gained 60K in the last five years - putting it in the seventh smallest gainer in the league.

Luckily, though the people in Cincy are a rich bunch of buggers - to make up for that small number of possible fans - but wait, the Cincy/Middletown area has the fifth lowest per-capita income among league markets, with a small growth rate in that area relative to the league.

Oh, and Cincinnati has the third smallest television market, too, with barely over a seventh of the televisions in New York.

March 23, 2007

So, whatcha been doin'?

I've been pleasantly surprised with the development of the Cassandra Cain Batgirl since they gave her a bit of a backstory. The writers have done an excellent job of drifting her from a true tabula rasa but with the ability to beat anybody in the DC universe - Batman and Lady Shiva included - in hadn-to-hand combat. The whole trained-by-the-league-of-assasins thing worked for her history. The introduction of her character into the Birds of Prey even worked well as other strong female characters watching out for her.

And I think I like the initial turnings in the new direction in which Batgirl: Destruction's Daughter seems to take her. I'll avoid the plot ruiners, but I will say that I found the developments toward the major change in the character's orientation and loyalties to come along naturally, something that I doubted would work but that seems to roll along almost as though they were obvious.

The artwork throughout the Batgirl series continues to fit the character well as it's more cartoonish than most series - drifting too far only when they employed an artist or two that pushed the tone too far into anime. The younger, more innocent (except for the whole she-could-kill-you-in-a-heartbeat thing) tone of the Batgirl comics, and the writing it fittingly tight.

I'll be curious to see if the new direction holds out for Batgirl (I can't imagine it'll last more than a year at most), but I'd like to be around to see what the first confrontation between Batgirl and Batman will turn out to be.

Man, it doesn't get much darker than Requiem for a Dream, the second film from director Darren Arnofsky (following the phenomenal debut Pi). Requiem sontinues to show that Arnofsky is growing as a director but is clearly a force to be reckoned with. (I'm still looking forward to The Fountain on DVD at some point.)

This film is a tale of four characters and their descent into increasingly desperate drug addiction, and it's not for the faint of heart. I got the edited version from the local library, and I checked on IMDB to see what got left out in the editing process. Seems that the scene where one character sells herself for a fix was even worse than the thoroughly disturbing scene that I got to see - an edit that I'm totally fine with.

We get views of bad-to-disabling trips from the matronly character, withdrawl scenes from the younger characters, moments of ignorant blissfulness in the highs, and jumpy quick cuts for every injection or inhalation.

Arnofsky gives us more than a passing visit into the heads of these chracters as they progress further and further into drug use, using quick cuts, time pauses and rushes, drastic fish-eye lensing to connect us to the sense of disolcation from reality that he wants us to share.

The film is very well made, impressively acted by all involved (including the always lovely Jennifer Connelly whose fall into depravation is no less effectively portrayed or bothersome than are the others.)

[spoiler warning]

By the end of the film, one character has lost her mind, another his freedom, a third his limbs, and the fourth her dignity and sense of self. No one ends happily here, and the movie is very hard to watch because of that.

I certainly didn't enjoy this and can't imagine that it'd be a fun midnight movie.

I've said that I'm steering clear of the X-Men from here on out, but there are two exceptions: New X-Men and Astonishing X-Men. The former involves characters who are new enough that I don't feel like I've been out of the picture for decades when I read their stories, and the latter has characters who have changed so little that I again feel current with the storylines.

Thankfully, New X-Men: Childhood's End doesn't disappoint by continuing to tell a tight, well-crafted tale that is mostly self-contained, not requiring me to go hunting for a dozen other titles in order to enjoy the story.

We continue with the X-Men-in-training New X-Men at the Xavier Academy just after the bus containing their recently-depowered classmates has been hit by a rocket launcher, killing nearly all of those on board. The series has been building to revelations of a grand villianous plot that are reveled in this issue, a bad guy who can see the future and watch the effects of each action he takes as future history, allowing him to kill whomever he sees happens to have already stopped him in the future. It's an interesting premise and one that's played pretty well, particularly when the source of this power is revealed.

New X-Men continues to be a fun read that has a surprising amount of emotional depth. I've enjoyed getting to know and kind of care about these characters as they wander the teenage years with a few more powers than most folks I know.

Time draws short here, and I'm getting tired of writing

Superman of Tomorrw (part 2 and part 1) stunk.

The dialogue is too cute by half with lots of instances where we see voice over in front of a panorama, thinking that the dialogue is coming from one character. In the next scene, however, we see that the dialogue actually was coming from another character who happens to be having the same sorts of issues.

And the artwork is needlessly complicated.

And there's something about Superman being the bad guy because he made some sort of imaginary world in the phantom zone.

Dumb and to be avoided...

Luckily there is 300 to wash away the ick of the Superman dreck.

I was pleasantly surprised by 300. I had heard enough cautionary tales about it not being nearly as good as Sin City - and it probably isn't - that expectations were lowered a bit before last Friday's IMAX showing.

The film didn't, however, disappoint. The colors and visuals are stunning - truly awesome (in the original meaning of the word.) And for a movie that is basically an hour or so of a single battle, we get to know a number of the characters well enough to actually care about them and their fates. Interspersed with the impressive battle scenes, then, are scenes of the homefront where the political battle of whether or not to support our troops (something that has lead some to suggest, I think incorrectly, that 300 is an analogy to our current Iraq quagmire) which lead us to sympathize particularly with the main character (heavy is the head that wears the crown).

The film moves along quickly enough, never dragging in any one spot, and the end of the movie is impressively stirring.

It's far from perfect, but it's certainly worth a shot - especially in the theater because of those impressive visuals. I would imagine that much would be lost on a small screen.

I didn't get The Departed.

I mean I understood the story. It's a pretty simple one, honestly. There's a mole from the police in the bad guy's organization, and there's a mole in the police from the bad guy's organization. Pretty straight forward. And the two guys are hot for the same girl. An interesting but kind of flukish and empty quirk.

Oh, and the guys are each trying to find out who the other is - and getting all stressed in the process. Ok.

But I never got where the greatness of the film was. The whole thing seemed very straight forward, very kind of bland. Maybe it was the fact that Scorsese kept Jack Nicholson in check. I don't know.

I've now seen two of the films that were nominated for best picture last year: this one and Little Miss Sunshine, and I didn't get either one. Neither seemed worthy of nomination. Meh...

Since this wasn't nearly Scorsese's best, here are five of his films that are better:
  1. Goodfellas
  2. Taxi Driver
  3. Gangs of New York
  4. The Last Waltz
  5. Cape Fear

March 22, 2007

Blasphemy in oh so many forms

This gigantic statue is about ten minutes from my house. It's kinda creepy and rather weird. Luckily, though, there's an entire website devoted to the statue.

Thanks, by the way to Heywood Banks for writing such a cool song about the freakish monstrosity.

And if you'd like to know more about Touchdown Jesus, head to any of these inspirational links:

March 21, 2007

Rube Goldberg strikes again - and random other stuff

Sure, it's viral and all, but it's a cool bit of a Rube Goldberg machine. Check it, folks...

And while I'm at it, check the bunch of Comic Relief videos thanks to YesButNoButYes. A couple of them have a bit of spicy language, but they're safe for the BBC, so we're considering them safe for us today. I especially recommend the ones labeled "Ricky Gervais humbly visits Africa" and "Dr. Who teachers English".

While I'm at it, I'd also like to give a shout out to the new Ben & Jerry's flavor Country Peach Cobbler. If only it hadn't been recalled, I'd be all over a pint of that.

March 20, 2007

The good, the bad, and the ugly

The Good: UNLV's road jerseys (seen most prominantly when the Runnin' Rebels defeated Wisconson this weekend)

The Bad: Oregon's home jerseys (seen most odiously when the Ducks held off Winthrop to eliminate the big dance's final double-digit seed)

and The Ugly: The first half of the IU-UCLA game on Saturday night.

All in all, a wonderful first weekend of the tourney.

March 19, 2007

Freedom versus safety

It looks like Robert Daniels is pretty much toast.

A news story this month reports that the poor bugger seems to have contracted a disease-resistant strain of tuberculosis and has gotten his backside thrown into jail because of it.

Officials found out about Daniels in 2006 when (all facts according to this story) he went to a Phoenix hospital for respiratory problems. The hospital folks sent him... a Phoenix halfway house for indigent TB patients under a voluntary quarantine. He was ordered to continue treatment and wear a mask when he went out in public because the disease is spread by airborne contact.

Daniels stopped taking his medication and went unmasked to a restaurant, a convenience market and other stores, court records stated.
And therein lies the problem.

The man is a walking timebomb. He's got a strain of TB that is described as "extreme multidrug resistant tuberculosis" and doesn't want to treat it or protect the folks around him. He is the perfect cauldron for development of a new disease and seems to be mostly resistant to that disease (at least for now). According to the article, a 2006 medical assesment showed that the strain is mutating in Daniels.

Good stuff.

So the question comes - do we keep him locked up forever, knowing that even the slightest screw up leads to something like The Stand, do we release him because he hasn't really done anything wrong, or do we trick him into a little room (tell him it's a bathroom or something), shoot him in the head, and drop the whole room into a plasma generator or something?

Of course, how do you scrub and get rid of his hospital room?

Oh, and thanks to for initially sending this article my way.

March 18, 2007

A simple task

So, what's the tallest building in the world?

No, it's not the Sears Tower. If you answered that, you really haven't been paying attention for a while now...c'mon.

If you said the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, you're getting warmer - and you probably saw that awful film Entrapment.

Nope, the tallest building in the world is - and has been since 2004 - the Taipei 101. To the top of the roof, Taipei 101 is 448 m tall. To the top of its spire, it's 508 m.

The Sears Tower, on the other hand, tops out at 442.3 m to its roof. Of course its spire is actually taller at 527.3 m. So maybe it's the tallest building in the world.

Or maybe it's the the CN Tower in Toronto. After all, its spire tops out at 552.3 m - even though its technical roof is only 457.2 m high.

Or maybe it's the KVLY-TV mast in North Dakota. The transmission tower tops out at 628.8 m, but it's supported by guy wires.

Turns out that answering the question of which is the tallest building in the world is a bit of a tricky subject depending on whether you want to count distance to the roof or the spire, flagpole or antenna, and whether the building has to be self-supported or cable-stayed. Some people even try to include height from top to bottom of oil platforms, but those people aren't right.

Generally, the current winner is accepted to be Taipei 101, but not for long.

Two structures in Dubai (I think I've mentioned the place before, eh?) look to be competing for the title of world's tallest, and neither one will announce a final height for their tower. The Burj Dubai is going to top out somewhere between 808 m and 1011 m, and it's down the road competitor - the Al Burj looks to be somewhere above 700 m tall.

It's interesting to watch the funny humans try to top themselves a few feet at a time as they strive to reach the heavens.

We're funny folks...

Oh, and thanks to the Skyscraper Page for their help with research.

March 17, 2007

DC Comics FAQ

The FAQs found on this website would be a great place to do some quick research on most DC Comics heroes.

Of course, there are a number of other resources out there that I would recommend as well:
  • DC Cosmic Teams - good info about most of the teams (good and bad) around the DC Universe, nicely updated
  • Comic Art Community gallery - nothing but images of every possible character from every possible creator
  • DC Trade Paperback timeline - if you, like I, wait for comics to show up as trades, then this website is a near must as you'll know what to read and in what order
  • Crisis to Crisis - the trade paperback timeline specifically leading up to Infinite Crisis
  • Comics 101 - the absolute best site to read about the history of comic characters...nyou never know what's going to roll across Prof Tipton's thoughts, but it'll be fascinating and comics-related no issues each Wednesday
  • Comics in Context (early and late) - the next best column about comics, but this one tends to deviate a bit here and there
  • Ze Ball Breaker Micro-Heros Site - to see what the characters generally looked like...nearly any character from nearly any publisher

March 16, 2007

Too much rock for one poll

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has a poll up asking whether we think twenty-five artists are future hall of famers...
  • Guns 'N' Roses - 60/40 (current poll results 60% yes/40% no) - phenomenal album, Appetite for Destruction is one of the best hard rock albums ever...and Use Your Illusion was solid but overly long...too little product and too much internal destruction...five albums total - one legend, two very good - just isn't enough to overcome that
  • Jay-Z - 35/65 - I'm too far out of my depth in rap to even comment
  • Madonna - 76/24 - she's been too popular and relevant for too long to be anything but a yes...but she certainly doesn't feel rock to me in the least...
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - 61/39 - they seemed like such throwaway punk/ska in the 80s that I probably would've said no...but their late career rebirth (Californication, By the Way, Stadium Arcadium) puts them in for me
  • Mariah Carey - 45/55 - after ten albums, she still feels like a much lesser, much crappier Madonna...and she's not even close to rock...I'm thinking that the Hall should be changed to the Pop Music Hall of Fame...and she'd still not be in for me
  • Radiohead - 20/80 - again, I'm out of my depth...probably couldn't name a single song by Radiohead
  • Snoop Dogg - 37/63 - man, I'd say no, but his discography suggests that it'd be closer than I think it would be...again, I'm honestly out of my depth
  • Justin Timberlake - 30/70 - no way...he's put out two albums and been a member of a big boy band...the solo work doesn't come even close
  • Bjork - 12/88 (lowest positive reaction so far) - more a curiosity than a musician here in the
  • Metallica - 78/22 - easy choice for me...yes..twenty years of making relevant, clearly rock music...some phenomenal albums in the process...easy, easy yes...
  • Beck - 22/78 - interesting choice here...I like the heck out of him, so I might be biased...I see the potential for Beck to continue to be relevant for decades because he is so stylistically he a hall of famer? - no...will he be? - I think so...
  • Sheryl Crow - 57/43 - only five proper albums so far...her music is pleasant and non-offensive...seems cut in the same vein as the late 70's singer songwriters to me but with a little more guitar, a little poppier sound...I don't like her music, and she's not a hall of famer yet, but my guess is that she'll put out the same sort of music she's doing for decades...may end up with a career similar to Bryan Adams, honestly...
  • Green Day - 54/46 - only seven proper albums so far...two of which are awesome (Dookie & American Idiot - the latter of which is the best album to come out this decade)...tough call...I'd say that they're on track but not there if they got hit by a bus tomorrow, and before American Idiot, I would have certainly said no
  • Eminem - 40/60 - as much as I hate him, as much as I think he's white trash with millions of dollars, I think he's got a pretty good shot...he'll have to put out another couple of albums that are closer to his first ones, but his first ones were so revelatory, he was such a media presence that I think he's got a chance...and it's hard to believe that we've only know about him for seven years or so...
  • Pearl Jam - 72/28 - Googs would kvetch if I said anything but yes, and I'll do so easily enough...they are the greatest rock band of the last two decades and are still putting out great music...they've taken social stances and connected with their audience like no band since the Dead...their music isn't a direct connection, but their band is the living legacy of the Dead...
  • Beastie Boys - 46/54 - tough for me to separate my love for them from what they mean to the industry as a whole...I'd go with yes, though...sure, License to Ill was frat boy rap trash, but their 90's albums brought in an era of sampling that has rarely reached the heights of their own discs...the big problem is that they've only put out six albums in the last twenty years...if they'd've been a little more prolific, they'd be a slam it is, they'll get in on artistic merit...
  • Mary J Blige - 45/55 - see Jay-Z but replace rap with R&B...
  • White Stripes - 13/87 - wow, way lower than I thought the poll would - no...eventually? yes...
  • R. Kelly - 14/86 - no, and if only because his two lasting images are of the friggin' "Trapped in a Closet" video and of Dave Chapelle's parody
  • Motley Crue - 70/30 - seriously?...80's big hair hack music...nope, no, nu-uh...and any late career, reality tv resurgance actually detracts from their chances
  • Joan Jett - 58/42 - I am amazed at the voting results now...c'mon, name two Joan Jett songs...I'll spot you "I Love Rock 'n' Roll", and I'll still bet that most of you (and me) can't name a second hit, no matter how rock that hit, does not a hall of fame career make
  • Nine Inch Nails - 33/67 - there is a chance, but they'll have to have some commerical success - something they haven't seen since the early 90's...only five albums...probably not and definitely not in the "hit by a bus tomorrow" test
  • Alanis Morissette - 36/64 - Jagged Little Pill was a heck of a debut but very much dated now...and she's recorded an acoustic version of it which makes it somehow lesser...has the original seriously sold 30 million albums?
  • Oasis - 18/82 - too short a peak...though supposedly they came out with a really good album in spite of title of that one (Son't Believe the Truth), they seem to have fallen victim to believing their own hype...
  • Destiny's Child - 30/70 - never had a great album...probably will go down historically as Beyonce's first group...nope

March 15, 2007

I love the smell of Btk in the morning

Looks like we'll be re-enacting a scene from Short Cuts this spring when the helicopters rain down Btk (bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki, a pesticide designed specifically to fight the gypsy moth) on our neighborhood.

I know I'm a science teacher and all, and as such should be trusting in the part of the Enquirer story when it tells me that "The Spray won't hurt anybody", but for some reason, I'm a little leary.

I'm thinking that the dogs will be spending those mornings inside.

March 14, 2007

The simplicity of youth...and fruit pies

Thanks to Branded in the 80s for bringing back that old school goodness day after day - particularly this week when they brought back the classic Hostess ads that ran in comic books from 1977 through 1982.

Those were formative years for me, and I was reading comic books back then like it was nobody's business. Plus, I was horking down sweet treats like they were going out of style. (Thank heaven that so much has changed in the decades since then.)

The Hostess ads of the time were absolute classics of cultural reference. Somebody has to be of a very specific age and hobby to get any references made to the Hostess comic book ads of that period.

And thankfully, Seanbaby remembers them and has set up a tribute website complete with awesomely creamy center. Thanks to Seanbaby, we can see such classics as "Spider Man Spoild a Snatch" and other gems where the superheros fight crime by throwing down with some Tinkies and Ho-Hos and Ring-Dings and the like.

Man, this stuff is all about the genius...

March 13, 2007

The glory of Madison's

So, the campaign is all but over (fund raising's done, now it's just campaign wrap-up tasks), and the whole thing was a fair success. It looks like our total will end up somewhere in the range of last year's - well short of our goal but around where I realistically hoped we'd be.

Every year I am amazed and bewildered at how many things happen during the campaign that I could never have imagined. Some of this year's highlights:
  • An anonymous donor dropped off a cashier's check for $2500 on the last day of the campaign.
  • Our 5k made almost $2000 and was won by a guy who won the Flying Pig marathon in 2005.
  • I have come to envy and be angry at the Girl Scouts who have a monopoly on nearly every store in the Cincinnati area from Feb 17th through March 17th.
  • And Madison's Market in Glendale is a wonderful place.
Madison's Market is a small grocer in Glendale Square - about a mile and a half from PHS. Until this fall, I'd only seen the place from the outside, glancing at it when I was at the Glendale Pub or on the Square for one reason or another.

This fall, one of my students who happens to also work at Madison's convinced me to stop in and try their gelato which turned out to be absolutely revelatory. I'll admit to just a bit of a sweet tooth, sure, but the gelato really is outstanding. They make the gelato by the Madison's folks - don't know if it's done on site or out at their Adam's Co. farm - and is absolutely fabulous. All of the half dozen flavors that I've tried - Madagascar vanilla, cinnamon, blueberry, peach, strawberry - have been wonderful, and I've been eagerly awaiting the return of the longed for tiramisu gelato.

Madison's also was generous enough to sponsor our 5K t-shirts - making them the first business to sign on as a sponsor for our new-this-year t-shirts - and to provide a table or two for us to use at our finish line this year. One of our volunteers at the race was generous enough to give Madison's a few bucks in advance so that the two race co-coordinators could have lunch on her, and I managed to venture away from the sweets into Madison's paninis - fresh mozerella, basil, tomato, and red onion on mine, thanks for asking - which turned out to be every bit as wonderful as their gelato.

The Glendale location - awesome store, poor website - is the second store that Matt Madison has opened up in the Cincy area - the first being his Findlay Market location. Both of the stores sell produce that is locally and organically produced and about as fresh as is available anywhere.

Madison's is a perfect example of a store that we should all be patronizing for lots of reasons:
  • The food is fabulous.
  • The owners are generous and civically minded.
  • The produce is grown locally (to save fossil fuels in transport costs) and organically (better for the environment).
  • The stores are in the neighborhood, promoting mixed-use development, something that keeps cities healthy and vibrant.
I know I'll be spending more of my time and money at Madison's in the coming years...

March 12, 2007

More Superman Returns craptacular toys

I've crabbed and complained about Superman Returns more than enough.

So I'll continue...

The movie stunk...

The toys stunk...

And I'm not the only one to notice the fact that the Superman Returns toys are utter crap.

March 11, 2007

Flaming Carrot gets ALLLLLL the ladies!

It's pretty clear that the truest way to get in good with a lady is to dress up as an incredibly obscure comic book character.

But as the article says, Flaming Carrot gets all the ladies!

March 10, 2007

Videos of the week

Click on the picture to get a collection of a number of British comedy sketches

Click the above picture to see a large mock-up of what looks like a really neat computer interface

La Mer - the French version is much more beautiful than the American version - "Beyond the Sea"

Alyssa Milano was edging from cute to attractive, but even she couldn't save this disaster

I have no idea what this is, and I can't find any clues. The vocals aren't in a language that I know, but the whole thing just creeps me out.

Nice edits of an otherwise very NSFW song

I think I recognize the locale here.

I've linked to this Japanese tv show before but happen upon their stuff almost by random chance.

Shut up

March 9, 2007

Keep your stinkin' politics off of my science

I am not an expert on politics.

I am not an expert on many branches of science.

I am not an expert on how my car works.

Heck, I am not an expert on a whole host of things.

So I try not to talk too much about them - and I certainly would be reluctant to create policies that will affect other, more knolwedgable people in those areas.

I am fairly certain, however, that most politicians are not experts on science, and yet many of them continue to legislate in spite of scientific evidence that seems to suggest that they should simply leave the thinking to the thinkers.

To quote the Union of Concerned Scientists:
In recent years, scientists who work for and advise the federal government have seen their work manipulated, suppressed, distorted, while agencies have systematically limited public and policy maker access to critical scientific information. To document this abuse, the Union of Concerned Scientists has created the A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science.
The guide details sixty-two areas in which the government (in the last half dozen years) has chosen to ignore, refute, or twist science knowledge in order to further their political agendas.

Many of the events are linked to the Bush administration (almunium tubes, arms control, abstinence only sex education, and other issues) which seems to fit a pattern of articles and books claiming that the Bush administration does, indeed ignore or contradict science whenever it is politically expedient to do so.I'm not even an expert in this field, so I would ask that if you are interested, that you explore things further. I have the first book listed - The Republican War on Science - in line for my summer reading.

But I do know that I am a little bothered the the Union of Concerned Scientists made some sort of faux periodic table to display their positions.

Their table has no periodicity and displays very few (if any) of the relationships that should be inherent to such an organization.

Their graphic is cutesy but crappy.

March 8, 2007

The annual pitch

Ok, folks, here the annual pitch.

Tomorrow is the end of our Pasta for Pennies campaign at good ol' Princeton High School.

Each year, I coordinate (along with Calen - common commenter around this here blog) a three-week fund raising campaign to gather together some cash for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It's something that our school has been doing for eight years now and that I've been a part of for six, coordinator for three, and it's probably the thing that I am proudest of that I do each year.

In my first year at PHS, I didn't have a class during the period that we collected (and still collect) money, but I got roped into the campaign on a stupid bet, sacrificing my hair to the cause when the students beat their goal of $17,000 in the campaign. That year they raised more thatn $25,000 total, and I was totally hooked. I got to see kids who were already working their backsides off to keep up with their classes choose to spend another couple of hours each night collecting in front of Kroger stores; baking cookies and cupcakes between writing reports; and walking miles door to door in their neighborhood.

And they did - and still do - all of this to help out people that they've never met. They take schedules that are already bursting, and they add in countless hours of service because they enjoy doing it and because it's the right thing to do.

And I'm lucky enough to be able to give them a few pointers each year, to nudge their amazing hearts and minds into a slightly different direction from where they normally are. In the process, then, we help out a cause that has come to be very near and dear to me.

I know that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is a deserving charity. The mark that blood cancers leaves on a family is a horrific one and one that I hope never to see up close. This was brought home to me last summer when I watched the premiere of A Lion in the House as I saw the lives of five Cincinnati families get entirely and totally shattered in the time it took for a doctor to say one simple phrase to the children and adults: "It looks like you have cancer."

I give my time and money to this campaign for so many reasons, honestly, only the least of which is because the disease is horrible and my money might help someone who is suffering have a slightly better hour, day, month, life.

I give to this campaign because I love how I feel when the stressful part is over, when last weekend's 5K has been completed, and we're cleaning up, and the student helpers gather together for a picture. The absolute, utter bliss in my heart that I felt knowing that those kids were having a great time doing good for other people, that they were taking another step toward becoming amazing men and women, that they were maybe starting down a lifelong path of giving because of something that I had planned and that I had helped them want to do is a feeling that rivals the greatest moments in my life.

This year's campaign looks to fall well short of our $50,000 goal, but it isn't for lack of hard work by those students who have gotten involved. The students on the Pasta for Pennies committee and those in the classes that have bought into the campaign are doing amazing, wonderful work.

If you happen to have a few dollars lying around and would like to guide that money toward doing a little good, I would ask that any of you reading this make a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Admittedly, your donation will help our total look a little better this year, but it will also do a lot of good as over 75% of the money raised by the Society goes toward patient services, education, and research - a figure that is rivaled by very few national charities.

And if you don't want to give to the LLS, find another charity to give your time, money, and heart to. There are certainly enough out there that could use your help.

If you do happen to choose to give to the LLS, feel free to ask a few friends to give as well.


Oh my golly...they killed America

Yeah, yeah, yeah...

Spoiler alert and all that jazz...

It appears that Captain America is dead.

I know, it's not like a real person died or anything, and he's dead because his death happened to be interesting as a plot device, so there shouldn't be mourning or anything. I'm good with that. I understand that.

Plus, he's a Marvel character, and I'm a DC guy (as you may have picked up from the blog's numerous comic book posts), so I shouldn't care.

And, honestly, I don't care.

The reason I'm pointing out Cap's death, though, is that I find it interesting that two comic book events from the same Marvel storyline (Civil War, keep up, kids) - the unmasking of Spiderman and the death of Captain America - have gotten news coverage on real news venues.

I'm kind of curious as to whether we'll see the same kind of news coverage when - according to this rumor, at least - the seventh book comes out and Harry Potter dies.

March 7, 2007

Plasma...that's the ticket

It's becoming increasingly clear that we cannot continue to produce a prodigious amount of waste and simply bury it all in landfills. We are running out of room, and the economic and environmental costs of continuing our landfilling scheme are growing exponentially.

Four years ago, Discover magazine published an article that seemed to offer an amazingly viable option to deal with the millions of pounds of trash we produce everyday. The first small-scale thermal depolymerization plant was just then coming online, using a technology that ground up, heated, pressurized, heated, and eventually distilled any sort of waste into reusable materials. A quote from the article that has stuck with me reports that
If a 175-pound man fell into one end, he would come out the other end as 38 pounds of oil, 7 pounds of gas, and 7 pounds of minerals, as well as 123 pounds of sterilized water.
The initial entries into the small-scale plant were to be 200 tons of turkey offal from a Butterball plant in Missouri.

The process was reported to be 85% efficient, meaning that of 100 BTU of energy in the waste put into the process, 85% could be recovered and reused - an absolute miracle level of recapture for any waste process.

A year later, Discover published an update on the process suggesting that things would be running along in just a short while. A 2006 update, then suggested that there were a few more hurdles to be overcome - most of them legislative as the process was competing for scarce funding dollars with other alternative energy source lobbies in Washington, DC. The technology isn't dead, but it has been much slower to come to fruition than initial excitement suggested.

This past month, then, Popular Science published an article about another alternative for trash disposal involving a plasma decomposition process. The trash is initiall chopped up in huge grinders and then placed into a vessel that has a 650-volt current passing between electrodes, heating the air in the vessel to high enough temperatures that the trash is broken down into very small molecules and pure elements. Two products come out of the reactor vessel - syngas ("a mizture of primarily hydrogen and carbon monoxide that can be converted into a variety of marketable fuels, including ethanol, natural gas, and hydrogen") and "an obsidian-like glass used as a raw material for numerous applications including bathroom tiles and high-strength asphalt."

The amazing part of the whole deal, however, is that the syngas comes out at 2200 degrees fahrenheit and generates steam as it cools, turning turbines that produce electricity - two-thirds of which goes into continuing the process and one-third of which ends up as energy profit, able to be sold back to electrical utilities or to heat and power the rest of the plant.

Trash goes in and energy comes out.

It could be a miracle technology, folks.

If you have a few bucks to invest, do me a favor and throw some the way of an alternative energy scheme, would ya? And if it happens to be one of these two, I certainly wouldn't be too bothered.

March 6, 2007

More wikipedia issues

Ah, the ignorance of the legislature seems, at times, to be boundless.

Senate bill 49 - sponsored by Senator Ted Stevens - is an updated version of legislation introduced last year known as the Deleting Online Predators Act - or DOPA. Last year's legislation - and this year's similar Senate bill - look to restrict all institutions that receive federal funding or subsidies for internet access - including most schools and public libraries - to block social networking websites or chat rooms as defined by...
the Commission [which] shall take into consideration the extent to which a website--

`(i) is offered by a commercial entity;

`(ii) permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information;

`(iii) permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users;

`(iv) elicits highly-personalized information from users; and

`(v) enables communication among users.'.
Now I can't disagree with the other portion of the bill that states that
(1) sexual predators approach minors on the Internet using chat rooms and social networking websites, and, according to the United States Attorney General, one in five children has been approached sexually on the Internet;

(2) sexual predators can use these chat rooms and websites to locate, learn about, befriend, and eventually prey on children by engaging them in sexually explicit conversations, asking for photographs, and attempting to lure children into a face to face meeting; and

(3) with the explosive growth of trendy chat rooms and social networking websites, it is becoming more and more difficult to monitor and protect minors from those with devious intentions, particularly when children are away from parental supervision.
but I certainly can disagree with the option of simply blocking all of those sites from the eyes of school children and library users - particularly of library users.

School children typically are blocked from most of those website already. My school, for example, doesn't block Blogger, but we do block LiveJournal, Xanga, MySpace, Facebook and many other sites. But the blocking of these sites at libraries does mean that adults - typically adults of more limited socio-economic means - will be blocked from performing totally legal actions.

Senator Stevens - from my limited knowledge of him - doesn't seem like a man whose heart is in the wrong place, but he does seem like one who should, perhaps, restrict his actions to areas where he doesn't come off sounding like a complete and total boob.

Of course, it looks like at least one of the folks at Wikipedia are doing something to shift the concept of Wikipedia - a website that many have theorized might fall under the jurisdiction of Stevens's legislation - from one that is editable by anyone anywhere with complete anonymity into a slightly more formally-lead online encyclopedia, something that teachers might even start allowing as a citation for scholarly research.

The new project is called and will see all content overseen by a series of subject-specific experts. The website is just getting started, and it's at the point where there is little enough information that it's not yet ready to nearly be what it could become, but it'll be interesting to watch as it begins to grow...

Good luck, folks, with your continued use of the magical, tube-filled interweb.

March 5, 2007

Hello to simplicity

I absolutely love the new iPhone ad.

The beautiful simplicity of it all, the fact that the word iPhone is never mentioned...


Apple may not be the biggest tech company in the world (oh, they're big, sure, but Microsoft and Google still could squish them like little bugs), but they easily have the best design and ad folks out there.

And if you'd like to know who's in the commercial, here's the best list I could find...

March 4, 2007

This American TV show

Oh, schnikies...

This past week pointed out to me that This American Life is all set to become a television show in the spring.

This should be big news around my household, especially since the girl is very much into This American Life on NPR. I've got my iTunes - 'bout five thousand songs, probably five hundred of which I play in pretty high rotation whenever the computer's on and YouTube isn't up. She, though, heads over to The American Life's website just about any chance she gets and works through their archives listening to the weirdest, most akward stories of normal people doing only slightly normal things that she can dredge up.

My first listens to the show left me feeling weirdly detached, throroughly enthralled by the stories being told but not having even the slightest idea why I had been sucked in so quickly and deeply. Rarely does This American Life present anyone truly outstanding or remarkable. Instead, host Ira Glass's deadpan, dry as Death Valley delivery simply frames thoroughly average folks telling their entirely abnormal - not fantastic, rather just oddly compelling - tales of their lives.

A typical show consists of three stories, each roughly twenty minutes long and connected by a thematic thread that never quite develops in any way that I could have imagined or guessed but that, by the end of the show, have me (and the girl, of course) thoroughly mesmerized.

And I have no idea how those quirky stories are going to translate to the small screen. Often such stories on television end up showing their subjects more as pathetic figures, something that the radio series has always steered well clear of doing. In all honesty, I doubt that I'll ever have to worry about how the televsion show turns out (the whole no cable thing, doncha know), but as long as the radio series doesn't suffer, the folks can do just about anything they want, I guess.

If you happen to have cable, make sure to tune in to This American Life over on Showtime coming within the next month. In the meantime, check the trailers:

March 3, 2007

Summer planning starts early

Ok, the plans to head to Singapore seem to have fallen through - stupid friends getting promoted and coming back into the country. So we've now moved the vacation plans to see those same folks up in their returning home near Minneapolis. On the way to Minneapolis, we'll wander our way through the Wisconsin Dells (whatever they are), and on the way back, we might try to convince a couple of friends of ours to catch a Brewers game (the last detail of which those friends will probably learn of when they read this entry).

So, here's the tentative list of things to see/do/stay at...suggestions and additions are always wildly welcome...
  • Taliesin - for being a huge architecture geek, I've never actually been to any of Wright's homes. This seems like an oportune time.
  • I've mentioned my love of roadside attractions, and House on the Rock seems like the near-apex of a roadside attraction.
  • I understand there are a few minigolf courses in and around the Dells...and I'm a bit of a fiend for miniature
  • There's the hope for a Brewers baseball game on the way back through Milwaukee
  • There's supposed to be some camping in Buckhorn State Park - which honestly sounds pretty nice depending on the weather
  • The girl is entertained by the Tommy Bartlett Show, but I don't know...
So, anybody ever been to southeast Minnesota or southern to mid-Wisconsin and have any suggestions?

March 2, 2007

This week's YouTube run through

Thanks, as always to Transbuddha and YesButNoButYes...this week we add in some non-YouTube clips...

- a new thrill ride in Las Vegas...something I'll never, ever, ever, ever ride...

- Michel Gondry solves a Rubiks Cube with his feet

- how Michel Gondry solved a Rubik's Cube with his feet

- Michel Gondry tops himself

- "Baby's Got Back" by Gilbert and Sullivan

- Beardyman's recipe for making a good break

- Scissor Sisters - "She's My Man" video

- the inspiration for the above video

March 1, 2007

The Gods have spoken...maybe...

Looks like I'll be getting my dream - maybe.

WKRP in Cincinnati is finally being released on DVD, something for which I have long clamored. Now, if only they come as the original (read: not syndicated) versions with the original music and everything.

Then life will indeed be wonderful.

Sadly, though, we'll have to wait until April to find out for certain...