Monday, January 31, 2005

Hubba Hubba

Kim DuToit's Saturday/Sunday Skin feature is always worth a look. He doesn't tolerate skinny robot women, either. This past Saturday he featured a vintage hometown beauty.

No wonder Mr. Partridge suddenly dropped dead after fathering five aspiring pop stars.

Sleeping With the Devil

Ronald Moore, the creative force behind the new Battlestar Galactica, has a blog. Moore regularly responds to fans in Q&A posts, where he handles viewer concerns such as:

The standard of the stories are superb and I would have to say it is one of the finest sci fi series I have seen in a long time. BUT IT DOESNT NEED SEX TO GET THE VIEWERS. Call me a little old fashioned but I nor others that I know really appreciate having to endure sex scenes that really do not further the story in any significant way. In fact I think they are rather pointless."

This was one of the problems that I had during the miniseries. The Baltar-Number Six sex scenes could have been hinted at without the heavy breathing and the glowing red back. And about that back...like most "supermodels", it's kind of bony. Is that supposed to be attractive?

Example
This girl needs some pizza, or maybe a few big bowls of pasta, to get herself into shape. She looks quite ill here.

Ron Moore responds to the viewer by pointing out that the show is geared towards adults, and that sex scenes are part of understanding the show's characters in the context of human sexuality. Point well taken, but one has to remember that not all of the characters engaging in intimacy with others are human beings; they only look human. To put it in perspective: The character Number Six is Baltar's advisor, his closest confidant. The closest thing in the original Galactica series would have been Lucifer, the android with a mini discotheque in his pointy transparent head. In other words, Baltar is now sleeping with Lucifer.

That is just way too wrong.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Abyssburgh

Until around seventy years ago, Pittsburgh was a city that could reliably elect a Republican mayor every four years and was a reasonably thriving urban center. Then the Great Depression came along, and Republicans -- especially President Herbert Hoover -- took the hit for all of society's -- and the world's -- ills. Pittsburgh has not elected a Republican since then; for better or for worse (and if you are smart, you will bet on the latter), the city has been in the hands of the Democratic party, which has made for some rather exciting battles for the mayoral nomination in the Spring primaries, but meaningless general elections against token -- if any -- opposition.

Not surprisingly, the city has become a model for contemporary American urban decay. Despite a so-called "Renaissance" era during the 1950s and an attempt at "Renaissance II" thirty years later, the former heart of the American steel industry has steadily transformed from a hard-working modern metropolis into a sick shell of what it once was. Current Mayor Tom Murphy announced plans for an ill-fated Renaissance III that saw the construction of two new sports stadiums across the Allegheny River from downtown Pittsburgh using taxpayer money. A few other highly visible developments, mostly along the south shore of the Monongahela River, seem to encourage visitors to spend money in the city rather than encouraging long-term investment and residency. People who go to ball games, hang out at the Hard Rock Cafe, and gorge themselves at the Cheesecake Factory are not the people who live in the local neighborhoods and work for local businesses.

The number one employer in the city is the University of Pittsburgh, which would indicate that Pittsburgh is a well-educated town that attracts some of the finest minds in the world. In truth, however, many students come from out of town to study at Pitt, then leave as soon as they have their diplomas and never look back, taking quite a few locals with them. Those who do stay, by and large, tend to work outside city limits in industrial parks and suburban office buildings. Executives in skyscrapers are the excpetion these days.

An editiorial in today's Tribune-Review, well worth a read, sums up the reasons that Pittsburgh is heading "deeper into the abyss".

Natural selection is at work, and Pittsburgh's gene pool is shrinking.

This sounds like a good candidate for a Darwin Award. But when, exactly, can a city be declared "dead"?

On the principle that craziness will drive even sane people insane if they don't escape the madness, Pittsburghers have and will continue to break out of this hollowing husk.

Institutional craziness leading to insanity? I suspect that lead plumbing might be involved. It would explain why so many Pittsburghers think and act they way they do -- especially the politicians and bureaucrats.

The bulk of Pittsburgh's population is aging and poor. Those who are able, leave the city for greener pastures while still young, and take their incomes with them. How best to serve those who remain: the elderly, the poor, and the starving artists? Raise their taxes, of course. And use your influence with friends in Allegheny County government to make folks in the suburbs contribute as well. But where does all of the money go? Straight into the coffers of municipal employees' unions, particularly the vital police and fire departments:

Despite Act 47 officials' assurances that police and fire contracts would not go for more than a year, five-year deals are on the table, and the oversight board may have to find justice for taxpayers in the courts.

The effect of these long-term contracts would be to hamstring long-range planning necessary to right the city's fiscal ship. The chaos that would ensue: escalating costs, no diminution of Pittsburgh's long-term debt (it might even grow), and the specter of even higher taxes.

For the sake of whom? The ruling class, which includes the unions. No, which is the unions.

In the city of Pittsburgh, the Great Depression lives on. There will be no more Renaissance for this town as long as the power of big labor holds sway. It couldn't save the steel industry, and it will not save the people of a once-proud metropolis.

Is it any wonder that I identify myself as a resident of "Western Pennsylvania" rather than of the Pittsburgh area?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Battlestar Galactica, Fourth Episode

The new Battlestar Galactica is keeping me hooked. This week's episode, "Act of Contrition", is the weakest story thus far, but it works well enough as a transition from a good episode into what looks like an even better one. I've been trying to avoid any detailed reviews of the later episodes that have already been screened in the United Kingdom, but I figure it doesn't hurt to take a peek and get a preview of what is in store.

"Act of Contrition" centers around Starbuck, a character who does not particularly interest me. Starbuck lives with the guilt of having caused Zak Adama's death. Zak, younger son of Commander Adama, failed flight training, but never knew it because Starbuck, his flight instructor as well as his lover, passed him anyway. His poor flying skills led to his death. Starbuck suffers from flashbacks; she blows her new assignment, training new pilots, by flunking everyone on the first day; and finds herself having to admit the real reason for Zak's death to Adama. This episode was all about character development. I would have preferred seeing just about any other character take center stage for an episode like this; Starbuck is so unlikable that I find myself rooting for the John McCain-ish Colonel Tigh to deck her during one of their frequent verbal skirmishes.

The action picks up near the end with the sudden re-appearance of the Cylons. A small contingent of Cylon Raiders are handily dealt with by trainee Hotdog and instructor Starbuck, the latter of whom ends up ejecting from her damaged viper and landing on some mysterious planet. Next week comes the rescue mission. Guess who wants to leave her down there? Guess how I feel about it?


Thursday, January 27, 2005

Some Train Humor

On a lighter note, and also railroad related, here is something that might evoke a chuckle or two.

A few years ago, I told my wife that diesel-electric locomotive technology had advanced to the point where most newer locos were now running on AC power rather than DC. She asked me how this was possible. Being ignorant of the details, I was unable to provide an informed answer to her question. But it was a good question, and therefore deserving of an answer. "Simple," I told her, "the railroads got sick of the batteries running down, so they went out and got a bunch of very long extension cords."

For some reason, she didn't believe me.

How Not to Commit Suicide

The Darwin Awards have become the recognized standard of idiocy in contemporary society, or at least for many who populate internet message boards. From their website:

The Darwin Awards salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally kill themselves in really stupid ways.

This concept was misapplied yesterday by a Los Angeles area commuter commenting on a tragedy that befell a passenger train during the morning ride to work:

Pam Willars of Newhall, who rode a Metrolink train into town at about 6:45 p.m. said it was not the train’s fault. “It’s some idiot who should be given the Darwin award — it’s his fault,” Willars said.

Juan Manuel Alvarez, an emotionally disturbed man, attempted to commit suicide by parking his SUV across the tracks used by a morning commuter train. Had he succeeded, he would have been an easy Darwin Award winner. At the last minute, he decided not to kill himself. Instead, at least ten passengers on the train were killed and around 200 wounded.

Mr. Alvarez watched the fiery impact and was later found wandering amid the mangled railcars, muttering: "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

I'm sorry, too, Mr. Alvarez, but it is too late for remorse.

The tragedy could have been lessened if Juan Alvarez had parked in the path of a freight train. A family acquaintance who became an engineer many years ago was told that he would probably hit and kill someone on the tracks during his first year. This is a much more common occurrence than most people realize. When he did eventually spot someone on the tracks waiting to get hit, his first instinct was to try and stop the train. No, his veteran conductor told him, you are pulling heavy freight cars, including toxic chemicals, that will be dumped all over a populated area if you try to stop on a dime. Just hit the man on the tracks; there's nothing you can do about him now anyway. Then come to a normal slow stop and cooperate with the investigation when the authorities arrive. The engineer, a devout Christian,
was forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. It was an unenviable choice: Death or death. It bothered him for a long time afterwards.

Passenger trains are different. Whereas freight trains are long, heavy pulled by locomotives that are built for power, a passenger locomotive is built for speed and pulls much lighter cars that are designed for comfort. A freight train would have demolished his car with less risk of upsetting anything that the train was pulling. Blocking a passenger train is a good way to commit murder. Unfortunately, Mr. Alvarez was too selfish to consider this during his self-imposed brush with death.

Instead of a Darwin Award, Juan Manuel Alvarez is looking at a jury award. His mental condition might well the only thing standing between a life in prison and capital punishment.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Teresa's "Deep Funk"

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Whispers column checks in every Sunday with the latest scuttlebutt in local politics. This week, we learn that one of our favorite adopted daughters (ack), Teresa Heinz Kerry (or is it Teresa Heinz Field?) is suffering from a lack of overexposure:

"She was angry and hugely disappointed and (ticked) off," the Heinz Kerry friend told the Herald. "She wanted to win so badly."

So badly, in fact, that she seemed at times to act as though she were already in charge. Every time she opened her mouth near a microphone, she did more to hurt than to help her husband's campaign. In particular, let us not forget her run in with a Trib journalist in Boston last July, when she got huffy and insisted that she did not say what she had just said. Yes, she did. And almost as soon as the words "shove it" had left her lips, Republicans diagnosed her as being a bit nutty, while Democrats proclaimed her to be a hero, thus proving that the whole lot of them are as irrational as THK.

John Kerry would have been even less tolerable a President than Bill Clinton was, but at least foreign-born Teresa can't run for office like Hillary. THK would have made a Kerry presidency easier to take just by providing the nation with comic relief every time she made a public pronouncement. But will he run again -- or, more to the point, will she allow him to run again? Time will tell. Meanwhile, let us consider the Trib's choice of words in the headline of the Whispers piece that seems to reveal a rather painful method that THK uses to control all of JFK's movements:

Will John Kerry run again? The ball is in Teresa's hands

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Avoid the 'Loid

Celluloid, that is.

The Golden Raspberry Foundation has just announced its nominees for this year's Razzie Awards. This is ostensibly a fun way to sit back and mock some of the stink bombs that appear on movie screens worldwide. Sure, if there are annual awards for the best in cinema, let's have an award for bad movies, bad performances, bad production, et.al.

Now, I am not an avid moviegoer. This saves me an incredible amount of money, which I then go ahead and blow anyway by spending it on DVDs instead. But I am a very discriminating viewer, and nothing puts me off of enjoying purported entertainment more than finding out that the creative people involved with the product take a very dim view of people who think like me. It is a well-known fact that most celebrities tend to lean towards the left side of the political spectrum. Moonbats control the entertainment industry, and admitting to Republican Party affiliation or even saying one little positive thing about the right can harm someone's career. If I know that a performer is a registered Republican, like Charlton Heston (who was actually a Democrat until around 1964), then I have no problem patronizing his movies. (There is a good list of Republican celebrities at the Hollywood Congress of Republicans web site.) Needless to say, I avoid anything by Michael Moore like the plague.

And the Razzie awards have been hit with that plague. Perhaps I was being naive by expecting something so cute and fun to be free of political bias. But it is not. Among the expected nominations, such as Halle Berry in Catwoman and just about anything to do with Alexander, one finds Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9-11. If this pseudo-documentary had been the nominee, I could have appreciated the sentiment. But it wasn't. Keep in mind that Moore used news footage of leading figures in the U.S. government, as well as plenty of his own cinematography, to make the Bush Administration look as bad as possible -- just like an actual network news broadcast, you might say. Since these politicians and bureaucrats appear in a theatrically released film, the Razzie people figure, everyone who appears in it is an actor of sorts, with the lead performer being President George W. Bush. As Razzies founder John Wilson explains:


...while Fahrenheit 9/11 was a piece of anti-Bush propaganda, the president and his associates earned their Razzie nominations on their own.

“It wasn’t Mr Moore’s editing,” Wilson said. “It’s the raw footage of these people just making fools of themselves.”
Thank you, Mr. Wilson, for taking all of the fun out of your little project. It's almost enough to make me want to pay to see your other nominees. Almost, but not quite.

The Hollywood left's answer for everything that doesn't go their way: "It's all George Bush's fault." None of them are willing to take responsibility for their own failures.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Godzilla crushes the Steelers

One again, I have managed to go an entire football season without watching a single down of a Pittsburgh Steelers football game. Instead, I regaled my children with a Godzilla film festival on some cable channel called WAM! Very predictable, really -- the big green guy shows up just as a rival monster threatens Japan and manages to destroy several dense (not to mention densely populated) urban areas while marching off to battle. Hundreds of screaming people run from their tables at al fresco dining establishments. Plenty of "dragon-breath" bursts, a man-made Godzilla-sized robot, and big green ends up wading back out to sea. With entertainment like this, who wants to watch a stinking football game?

I didn't even know the final score of the game until I checked in with someone in Minnesota. So the Steelers lost, eh? Big surprise there. But why in the heck did I hear someone setting off fireworks around 8PM last night? I don't even live that close to Heinz Field. Any excuse for a party, I guess.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Science Fiction

Four months remain until the newest (and last?) Star Wars film release. My interest in George Lucas's mega-franchise has been hot and cold over the past twenty-eight years; I saw two of the three original films in the theater, but I had all but forgotten about them until the Special Editions were released on videotape several years ago. Not until The Phantom Menace did I realize what a gripping saga this was, even if Lucas seemed to have gotten too dependent on CGI effects to tell the story. Attack of the Clones was like the animated portions of Mary Poppins, or even parts of The Incredible Mr. Limpet. Episode II was virtually a cartoon.

I have no idea whether I will be able to make it to the cinema to see Episode III, but the DVD purchase is a foregone conclusion. Meanwhile, there is a cover feature in the current issue of Vanity Fair that sounds rather intriguing, primarily for the pull-out photo spread of Star Wars cast members, new and old.

My interest in Science Fiction is not limited to Star Wars; that just happens to be the big thing right now. When SW was all the rage in the late seventies, I took a liking to ABC-TV's Battlestar Galactica, which many people (including litigious Lucas) accused of being a SW ripoff. The differences far outweighed the similarities, however, and the show had a good run for about half of the season. The villain, Count Baltar, was well played by John Colicos but usually ended each episode as too much of a "Curses, foiled again!" Snidley Whiplash type. The show suffered during second half of the season after the Cylons disappeared from the show. The struggle between the good guys and the somewhat cool bad guys appealed to me, as an eleven year old boy. Without that, I found the show rather boring. In the last episode, the Cylons returned, and things were looking up. The only reason for the cancellation, so I heard, was the enormous price tag for the network to produce the show. Too bad, so sad. I was hoping it would last long enough for the Cylons to win.

(Nothing to say about Galactica 1980, just move along...)

When the new Battlestar Galactica miniseries premiered over a year ago, I had some misgivings. Would the new show's human cast retain the lightheartedness of the originals? Would the revamped Cylons be as cool as the old ones? Would we actually get to see more of the Imperious Leader in this one? The new show turned out to be different, perhaps too different. I honestly could have done without the first half hour, in which the Cylon spy (Number Six) has conjugal relations with Baltar and snaps a little baby's neck to spare it from the coming nuclear holocaust. In fact, I nearly changed the channel. But I decided to give it a chance and was pleased with the rest of the show. The first three episodes of the regular series have been the most entertaining television that I have seen in a long while. Even the guest appearance by Richard Hatch was well done -- he didn't try to act campy or steal his scenes with Captain Apollo. One thing lacking from the original series was continuity, which the new show has in spades. Current SciFi shows know how to work in a story arc that will keep the audience tuning in to see how loose threads will be tied up. I hope this series has a good, long run.

I also hope we get to learn more about the Cylons. There is no Imperious Leader in this version, and the Cylons were originally man-made robot servants who rebelled against their masters, rather than a robot race created by lizardlike aliens. No robotic-looking Cylon has spoken yet. I am curious as to whether they have scary buzzing voices like their predecessors. Time will tell -- or not.

My personal favorite science fiction series, one which is shared by at least one of my children, is Doctor Who. I first discovered this one when I was a child. As an American, I had trouble getting accustomed to the British accents, and found the whole thing tedious. There were no explosions or chases for the entire half-hour like the cartoons that I was used to, and the stories dragged on from week to week in a manner that I was unaccustomed to. Ten years went by before I re-discovered Doctor Who on the local PBS station. It was good. Much better than I remembered it, in fact. And it was on every day, so I did not have to wait weeks for the resolution of a story. I even taped some episodes, so that I could go back and view my favorite bits at my leisure. But videotapes do not last forever, and neither does a television station's program schedule. Welcome to the age of the DVD. The shows are worth getting in this format, not only because of the medium's longevity but also because of the glut of features (including Easter Eggs) on every disc. American release dates are usually a few months behind the UK's, but it is always worth the wait. It will take a few years for the entire run of the show (all 27 years of it) to be released, which is fine since I would never be able to afford the whole thing at once.

If all goes well, we ought to be able to see the new series of Doctor Who here in the US without too long a delay.

Look for some DVD reviews here in the coming months. There's plenty to rave about these days. If Star Wars: Episode III is as good as initial reports indicate, I will have three good reasons to be a science fiction fan this year.

He's Still Here, Folks

Since I was at work all day yesterday, I gave up on trying to watch or see any of the inauguration festivities. Hugh Hewitt dedicated the early portion of his show to replaying the audio of the President's speech, so I did get to experience it as it was meant to be experienced. The speech was loaded with rhetoric and vision. One expects this from an inauguration speech. Pundits have already taken to varying degrees of criticism, including, surprisingly, many on the right. For what it's worth, I liked it, because I saw it not simply as a guide to the next four years, but as a long-term vision of America's future, and that of the world.

George W. Bush is still here, and he's not going away. Unfortunately, the same can be said for his erstwhile opponent, John F. Kerry (or John L. Kerry, if you're a New Yorker).

JFK/JLK made his voice heard during the Rice confirmation hearings this week, after returning from a visit with several anonymous (perhaps mythical) world leaders while trekking around the Middle East and Europe. No word on whether anyone offered him citizenship in their country. He would certainly feel more welcome in most of the places he visited than he must have felt in Washington yesterday.

(Who is the guy in the big cowboy hat? Talk about rubbing salt in the wound.)

Where were his supporters? If they weren't protesting along the parade route, darkening their web pages, or calling off from work and keeping their wallets shut, they were enjoying a nice Caribbean cruise. Party of the common man, indeed!

A local note -- the Pittsburgh Steelers host the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game this coming Sunday at Heinz(-Kerry) Field. I'm going to forget what I said about my apathy towards football, for one week and one week only. The Patriots need to be crushed, and crushed badly, for no other reason than that they have the profile of John Kerry featured prominently in their logo and on their helmets.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Inauguration Day

So-- today is the day that Moonbats everywhere are expected to tone down the yapping and try to be silent for twenty-four hours. They call it "Black Thursday". I simply call it Inauguration Day, as does most of the country.

No, I am not going to bother checking any leftist web sites to see if they actually blackened their screens. Nor am I going to run out and spend as much money as possible, even though they are urging a nationwide economic boycott of all businesses today. Because, basically, who cares?

When I was in college, around 1986, the campus Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GALA) announced an upcoming "Jeans Day", on which all students who identified themselves as gay or lesbian were to wear jeans to class. Was this supposed to imply that homosexuals never wore jeans on any other day, or that everyone who did wear jeans on "Jeans Day" was homosexual? "No", on both counts. Some students deliberately wore non-denim pants that day, but most didn't care. Many students never wore any kind of pants other than jeans anyway. It was a failed publicity attempt for a group called GALA.

"Black Thursday" is the Moonbats' "Jeans Day".

"Save as Draft" Can Be Your Friend

I had a post about Inauguration Day all lined up and ready to go, clicked on one of my links while in Preview mode, and managed to lose everything that I had typed. Note to self: Never, EVER try to preview a post without saving it first.

I will try again later.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Time For Celebration

Mitch Berg, proprietor of Shot In the Dark, reminds us all that it is less than three weeks to Reaganmas. Mitch calls it "our next national holiday", which is fine by me, as long as it remains an observation by private citizens who wish to honor Ronald Reagan's legacy and doesn't become a federal holiday. Reagan would have preferred it that way.

Before we start planning Reaganmas celebrations, we need to get past the Second George W. Bush Inauguration. Three months ago, there was still a fear that instead of an inauguration, we would be subjected to a national freak show with Herman Munster "reporting for duty". It seems that the freakish element still plans to play a part in the day's festivities. How hard is it going to be for a bunch of hippies, bureaucrats, and welfare sponges to blow off work, black their web sites, and refrain from spending money? Does this mean that those who opt to protest in the streets of Washington, D.C. are going to camp out overnight for two consecutive nights? If they are serious about a complete economic boycott, they can't be renting rooms in hotels or grabbing a snack from the kiosks. They have to camp out in the streets. Someone is going to freeze to death out there, and the media is going to make it out to be Bush's fault.

At least the rest of us can channel surf and enjoy the Galaxy of Stars. Pity about Kid Rock, since I am sure he would have toned down his act for the occasion, but at least the real-life inspiration for Buzz Lightyear will be in attendance!

Monday, January 17, 2005

Now This Is More Like It

Until about three days ago, this month had been unseasonably warm for a January. We had a similar spell about two years ago, which prompted a Euro-leftist work colleague of mine to opine that the warm weather had almost everything to do with human activity, as though such a thing as nature didn't exist. In fact, climate change has always occurred and has nothing to do with brief spells of "unseasonable" weather. (This kind of change has impacted world history from time to time. As to whether modern industrialization can adversely affect climate change, well, that is still an ongoing debate in the scientific community, no matter what kind of propaganda some Chicken Little filmmaker tries to sell in a silly movie.)

Needless to say, about a week after my colleague made her foolish observation, we were digging ourselves out from under mountains of snow.

Thus did it occur this past week. On Sunday, I shoveled and swept the walks three times. I enjoyed it. I liked cleaning the walks so much that I was disappointed to find that we didn't have additional accumulation overnight. Whereas some people jog along the seashore, I pile frozen white crap all over my lawn. That is my idea of a good workout. If we suddenly entered into a new Ice Age and had snow year round in Pennsylvania, I would be in paradise right here on Earth.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Last Man On Earth

Yesterday was a big day here in southwestern Pennsylvania, as the local pro football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, hosted the New York Jets in a playoff game and apparently won. Some people, mostly New Yorkers, are downright unhappy about the outcome. Most people around here are ecstatic. I'm not one of them. No, I'm not hostile towards the Steelers, or towards football in general. I have just never been a football fan, despite my father's best efforts when I was a child.

On Friday, I could not go anywhere without seeing people wear some sort of Steelers attire. One of my lunch companions, clad in a Steelers sweater, audaciously questioned the rest of us about our lack of team spirit. I explained to her that no one had given me any incentive to wear the black and gold. You want me to do it? Show me the money.

So what does a non-fan do for kicks when the rest of the world is watching football? He goes grocery shopping, of course.

Back in 1996, when the Steelers went to the Super Bowl (and lost to the Dallas Cowboys), I was working in a retail shop. While people were sitting at home watching the game, I was sitting behind a service desk and trying to keep awake. Our healthy crowd of Sunday evening shoppers had dwindled to almost nil. One of the few phone calls that I received came from a local newspaper reporter who wanted to find out if anyone was actually shopping at the few area stores that were open. I responded with a simple, off-the-cuff response that appeared in the next morning's paper: "I was amazed at how empty the parking lot was".

Empty parking lot? That's true for just about any Steelers game day, but even more so when it's a playoff game. So when my wife told me that yesterday's game had less than an hour to go (in TV time), I made up a quick shopping list and headed for the grocery. The entire parking lot was my domain. Inside the front of the store, employees outnumbered customers. I grabbed my cart and headed down the grocery aisles, where I was the only living being in sight. I felt like Charlton Heston in The Omega Man. The supermarket was my own miniature Los Angeles.

The Omega Man is an apocalyptic horror/science fiction film in which Heston tries to live as normal a life as possible after biological warfare has killed almost everyone with the exception of a few blanched mutants who have established a cult of technophobia. Heston's character represents everything that the cult hates. He continues to use electricity, gasoline...and sunlight. The cult members wear dark hooded robes and sunglasses; they are highly sensitive to light of any kind. They hide in the shadows and only come out at night. (Heston avoided this fate by being the only person to receive an experimental vaccine because he was, of course, a military doctor who had been working on a cure for the deadly affliction.) He just wants to live his life the way he used to and not be bothered. The others want him gotten rid of for not partaking of their ways.

At one point, Charlton Heston is captured by the mutant cult and sentenced to be executed...at a football stadium. The next time I watch that movie, I am going to have a hard time not imagining those black robes with Steelers logos on them.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Angels with messy faces

Today got off to a perfect start. Everyone slept in, the kids watched cartoons, and the baby went around hugging everyone in sight before wandering away. They are perfect angels, all of them. Life could not be better.

Then I went downstairs. The kitchen floor was covered in cat food, the dining room floor was covered in a carpet of uncooked rice, and the baby was sitting on the kitchen counter, helping herself to some cookies. Did I say that they are "perfect angels"?



Yep. They sure are.

(Picture taken at Young's Dairy in Yellow Springs, Ohio.)





From Here to Fridley and Back

Thanks to Doug from Bogus Gold for the link and the kind words -- and for the invitation. A Thursday night trip to Keegan's has been on my long-term "to do" list for some time.

Bogus Gold is a good model of what most blogs should be: a place where someone who is not necessarily a professional writer can go to express his/her views on whatever moves them, and just maybe get a shot at wider exposure. Good luck getting your piece published.

If I may drag things down for a moment of Nick Coleman-inspired silliness: "I will say, however, that his blog on the Internet shows a picture of a guy giving you the evil eye, drinking wine with his nose. He looks like an alcoholic wizard in an act-like-an-elephant contest."

Thank you for indulging my Inner Comedian.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Minnesota is the place to be

Way back in 1993 I visited Minnesota for the first time. A cousin in St. Paul was kind enough to put me up for a couple of nights, and gave me a brief tour of Saint Paul. He nicknamed it "The Geek's Tour", because most of our stops were used book stores. Just to mix things up, we also took in the Minnesota Historical Society, right near the state capitol. (Not that that would diminish the geekishness of our itinerary in any way...) Missing an exit on the interstate took us across the Mississippi River into Minneapolis, which was a near-trauma for cousin. People from one twin city never visit the other, I was told. We ended up at the Mall of America in Bloomington. Please understand this: neither cousin nor I are/were mall people. I visit malls only when I am desperate for gifts and don't know where to start. Otherwise, I avoid them like the plague. Cousin had it even worse; he had assured his teenaged kids that he would NEVER set foot in the Mall of America. Much embarrassment ensued upon his return home.

A year later I visited again, but for a longer stay. On the way in, I drove along the Great River Road and checked out the sights along the west bank of the Mississippi. After setting up a base camp (as it were) in cousin's house, I took a nice long day trip across rural southern Minnesota. One thing I learned from that trip is that every little town in the state had a Hardee's and a Dairy Queen. Even if there were no local businesses of any kind in evidence, you could count on fast food for lunch and dessert. A different experience took place over the weekend. Cousin took me to the lake country in northern Minnesota. I just about fell in love with the place. My infatuation had almost everything to do with the layout of the area. I prefer hills and mountains to beaches and flatlands. Cold weather keeps me healthy; warmer weather increases the lethargy. I loved visiting...but I didn't know if I could live there, due to the social and political climate of the state. Just ten years earlier, Minnesota was the only state that voted for Mondale over Reagan. That would make it about the last place I would want to move to.

On the other hand, Minnesota seemed like a place that could use a few more Republicans. But I'm just one man, and I wouldn't have made much difference.

Fast-forward ten years, to 2004. More people are learning how to use the internet for communication and personal expression. The lay observer learned what the Blogosphere was all about. For a couple of years, I freely admit, I had been under the impression that weblogs were all about teenage girls in their bunny slippers at night, sharing secrets with their girlfriends in a bizarre lingo that no one outside of their clique could understand. (I guess it's an AOL thing.) That blinkered view changed after I read the Olive Garden Screed by Minnesota-based author James Lileks. The Bleat has become a daily obsession for me, as it has for thousands if not millions of others. I began scoping out the blogs, and soon discovered what Hugh Hewitt christened the Northern Alliance of Blogs. In addition to the Bleat, my favorite daily reads include Shot In the Dark and Fraters Libertas. All are worth a look if you haven't check them out yet.

Minnesota doesn't need me after all -- with those bloggers helping to shape opinion, the state is in good hands. But in case I ever do have an opportunity to head north, I can expect to be welcomed with open arms. Thank you, Chad the Elder.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Workblogging

Before I started this blog, I have to carefully consider what topics I wished to post on. There was great temptation to comment on happenings at my workplace, or more generally, on happenings around the university campus where I work. (The latter would be rather more interesting than the former, let me assure you.) Upon reflection, I decided that the potential negative effects of such activity far outweighed the positive. After all, it is not unknown for people to be fired from their jobs because they blogged about work. Blogging, for many, serves as the ultra-modern, high-tech equivalent of going out with your buddies and complaining about the boss, the parents, the wife, the neighbors, etc. But your online "buddies" are not limited to those seated at the bar near you. And this is where Joe Gordon's troubles began.

Mr. Gordon, an long-time employee in good standing at a Waterstone's bookshop in Edinburgh, Scotland, took time to vent about his employer on his personal weblog. The employer found out, and Mr. Gordon suddenly finds himself unemployed. I can relate to this guy in so many ways. I am also 37 years old, and like him I spent almost 11 frustrating years as a bookseller for a large chain. Unlike him, however, I left of my own volition. Had blogs existed when I was selling books, I would have been sorely tempted to satirize my employer in an online forum; in fact, it would likely have been a group project. But there would have been unpleasant consequences, not unlike those suffered by Joe Gordon. As we were told on more than one occasion, our business was to stay in business; "customer service" was the key phrase. Staying in business also requires serving your employer well. How well are you serving your employer when you paint your employer in a bad light by venting on an open forum?

Some might see this as a free speech issue, but as Captain Ed points out, this goes beyond a simple matter of free speech. It is about responsible speech. Use it wisely. And do not expect to see much commentary, satirical or otherwise, about my current employer in this forum.

Monday, January 10, 2005

A First Time For Everything

After over a year of reading other people's blogs, and occasionally contributing comments to them, I have decided to take up the blogging hobby myself. Topics will include whatever happens to be on my mind as I post: family, work, politics, life in general. Let's hope I can keep this place interesting, and not let it turn into the sort of blog that is only read when someone clicks the "Next Blog" button in the upper right hand corner of someone else's blog.