Saturday, January 31, 2004

Peter Jackson’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS is, in my opinion, not quite on par with the invention of sliced bread.

I’ve been thinking about this for some time, but have only just now decided to put it all down on ether. I know the books backwards and forwards, having read them, on average, once every two years since I was in jr high (that would make about 10 times, but it may actually be more than that), so I awaited the release of the movies with a great deal of excitement and a tiny bit of trepidation. On the one hand, I was thrilled at the chance to see with my eyes what I’d so often seen in my mind, while on the other hand I was a tiny bit worried that my eyes wouldn’t make me as happy as my mind had. With that in mind, I must say that I enjoyed all three movies to varying degrees. I loved the first one, and loved parts of the other two. There was nothing in any of the films that made me angry and very little that disappointed me. I suspect, however, that I like the movies primarily because I can fill in any gaps in or zips through the plot without a second thought. Given that, I don’t think I’ve done a good job of evaluating the films as films. So I’ve tried to put the books aside and think only about what’s on the screen. I have not, by the way, seen the extended editions. I will, but lack a DVD player as yet. Anyway.

I’ll give you a short preview of what I’m going to say: I am not at all convinced that, aside from costumes/sets/effects, the movies are all that good. I certainly don’t think they deserve the Major Award that “The Return of the King” is likely to get. Find out why below (if you care).

NOTE: Part of this is informed by my having watched all three films with people who don’t know the books at all. As their questions about plot points mounted up, I started to realize that there were lots of things missing from the movies that a “great” movie really should have. After I talk about the movies as movies, I’ll point out a few of the things that I think should have been brought in from the books.

“The Fellowship of the Ring” opens nicely. What is clearly a very complicated backstory is told rather efficiently. We learn that elves are pseuds, dwarves are greedy, men are power hungry, and a very evil giant somehow put an absurdly high degree of his power into a ring, to his chagrin. This presumptive lord of the rings was defeated, but his evil lived on in his jewelry, which corrupted a slimy creature (or added to his corruption) before passing on to something called a “hobbit” (which is apparently an “unlikely” creature).

Then we see these hobbits in their natural surroundings. Quite bucolic. The young lad Frodo eagerly greets an old wizard, Gandalf, who is there to see the holder of the ring (Bilbo) on the latter’s birthday. So far, so cute. We meet Bilbo, who is a bit scatter brained, and the scamps Merry and Pippen. Bilbo goes off to enjoy his retirement abroad (he wants to see “mountains again!”). Then, rather quickly, we learn that the ring is THE ring and that Frodo has a major task ahead of him. With his pals Sam, Merry, and Pippen, Frodo takes off for the nearby town of Bree, which is totally the opposite of the bucolic Shire. Evil things are on his tail, and spies seem to be all around. The owner of the inn seems to vaguely recall Gandalf, and Frodo learns that he hasn’t been around for a while. Frodo needs guidance and help, obviously. One suspicious dude (among the many in the inn) seems to know a little about Frodo and his problems, so the hobbits throw caution to the wind, hook up with said dude, Strider, and head into the wilderness. WHY DO THEY TRUST THIS GUY? Gandalf explicitly warned Frodo to be super careful, and the innkeeper certainly didn’t seem to like him. Mistake number one? Nah. Fortunately for the hobbits, he turns out to be a pretty good fella. He seems to have arranged for them to have a pony, so maybe he’s an immigrant from Poland (get it?).

Frodo is stabbed by one of the Wraiths (which is what the evil pursuers are called: turns out they are the men from the opening set up, and they seem to have little use for fire. They aren’t so high and mighty, if you ask me) and Liv Tyler, as an elf who seems to know Strider, shows up to rescue him. This is fortunate, as she is good at riding a horse and can do magic (the Wraiths don’t do water, either. They are like evil henchmen from a Bond film, clearly). Frodo wakes up in Rivendell, which is an elf city.

While Frodo was having his adventure, Gandalf was imprisoned by his former boss, Saruman (another wizard). Saruman is in the thrall of the evil giant Sauron (see opening scene), who is now just a giant eye (how he hopes to wear the ring he covets is not made clear). Saruman is building an army to help Sauron get the ring back. Gandalf escaped thanks to his ability to speak to a moth, which apparently relayed a message to a giant eagle who flew past Saruman’s tower in the knick of time.

Back in Rivendell, Frodo is reunited with Bilbo (who reveals just how close he came to being driven over the edge by the evil ring) and his friends. Then, at a big meeting, elves, men, dwarves, Frodo, and Gandalf discuss what is to be done with the ring. We learn at the meeting that elves and dwarves don’t care much for one another and that at least one of the men (Boromir of Gondor, the mannish kingdom) sees the ring as “a gift”. We also learn that Strider is none other than the lost heir to the throne of Gondor and that he and Liv Tyler (aka Arwen, aka the daughter of Elrond, who is the king of the elves) have a love thing. In the end, it is resolved that Frodo must take the ring and throw it into the volcano where it was made. As escorts he gets his friends, Strider (aka Aragorn), Boromir, an elf named Legolas, a dwarf named Gimli, and Gandalf. And the pony. No horses. No soldiers. Just them. For some reason.

The gang tries, and fails, to go one of the ways it wanted to go (the other way went too close to Saruman), and so they have to go through a dangerous old dwarf city under a mountain. They have to ditch the pony, since no one among them ever heard of coal mines. Gandalf and Aragorn seem to think the city deserted, but Gimli says his cousin lives there. Turns out his cousin is dead, as are all other dwarves who once lived there. But there are monsters called orcs in there. The gang is attacked, but is on the verge of escaping when a fire monster called a Balrog attacks. Gandalf hangs back to fend off the monster while the others make good their escape, but the monster pulls him down into a chasm. Gandalf, it seems, is dead.

The gang soldiers on, lead by Aragorn, into a forrest full of suspicious elves. The elves know Aragorn, however, and even allow Gimli to enter. It seems that the elf/dwarf hatred is over and done with. The queen of these elves (Galadriel, who also narrated and appeared in the opening sequence) knows all about what is going on and gives Frodo a glass full of starlight (or something) and sends the gang on their way. She has a ring of her own, and seems to be incredibly powerful, but other than the glass thing and some boats and some new cloaks, she basically just cautions them to not let the door hit them on the ass on the way out. What was THAT all about?

The gang is now able to float. They float down to a state park (a lake and a waterfall and some old statues and ruins) for a rest. Boromir tries to take the ring from Frodo, and Frodo and Sam run away. Boromir is killed and orcs take Merry and Pippin (on orders to get halflings for Saruman: they don’t know anything more). With a ho hum shrug, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli decide that Frodo and Sam are no longer all that important compared to Merry and Pippen, and the movie ends. What the fuck?

As part one of the trilogy ends, so too ends part one of my critique. I think you can see where it is going, though. More to come.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Look at this, then this.

Sweet home Alabama.

[The "real" story came to my attention via Franklin's Findings]

Thursday, January 29, 2004

I just read a restatement of the old saw about rock and roll being dead and thought I'd say a few words regarding the medium.

Basically, it seems obvious that rock has snobs just like every other musical style (I'm thinking particularly of snotty classical and jazz critics, and self-important blues purists [who are very much like boxing enthusiasts of the Mailer/Plimpton ilk in that they weren't ever and ain't ever gonna be one of the ones doing the thing or knowing the feeling]. My own critical threshold is along the lines of Peter Schickle (sp?), who said "If it sounds good, it IS good."

Having said that, I tend to prefer rock that shows 1) dazzling musicianship AND/OR 2) my sort of political content AND/OR 3) impressive lyrical stylings. I rarely listen to anything by anyone who is not either musically or lyrically very talented or at least nice and political. The least important decisive factor for me, interestingly enough, is the politics. I can't swallow Patti Smith, for example, because I just don't like the sound.

There have been a few groups who meet all of my qualifications for goodness/listenability. The Who, The Police, The Clash, Rush, Yes, and Pink Floyd have all wrestled for the top spot over the years. Of these, the Clash were probably the least talented as musicians (although they were very creative), and Yes has the lamest lyrics (while being virtuosos on their axes).

I do like "attitude", of course. That's the thing most often lauded by rock critics, I figure. Apparently "real" rock and roll has a fair degree of "fuck you" (in every sense) as subtext. I can dig it. That's why I like the Sex Pistols. I never liked most other Punk, though. I loathe the Ramones, for example. I never have had much use for Iggy Pop. Black Flag? No thanks. Now Huesker Due? Gimmie some! (musicianship, don'tcha know).

The attitude I most prefer is not of the "fuck you" variety, however. I like "coolness" and understated individuality. Like the Allman Brothers and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Talking Heads. I love Prince in all his manifestations for this reason, as well. I WANT to like the Greatful Dead more than I do, for this reason.

Sometimes I get into stuff that doesn't make much sense to me. I went through a Scorpions phase and I'm not totally over them. I like a good bit of Judas Priest. I also have LOTS of New Wave (more than you'd ever care to hear, in fact). I grew fond of Kiss in my youth, as well, and will defend them if prompted.

This is a meandering post, I realize, and it has no real point. I just wanted to say the stuff and Birgit is asleep.

While blogging this, by the way, I heard "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley, "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash, "Clavado En Un Bar" by Mana, "Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be?)" by Billie Holiday, "Who's Cryin' Now" by Journey, "Wayfairing Stranger" by Emmylou Harris, and "Angel of Harlem" by U2. Go figure!

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Dio For America

Sunday! Sunday! SUNDAY!!! At the Boutwell Municipal Auditorium! It's RONNIE JAMES DIO for America!!!

That does it. I'm not gonna be the last in line.

I'll Think About That Tomorrow: Shelley has a list (from IMDB) of 100 films and has noted which she has seen. Here's the same list, but with my notes (the rankings are not mine, and I don't agree with them).

1. Godfather, The (1972) LOVED 2. Shawshank Redemption, The (1994) LIKED
3. Godfather: Part II, The (1974) LOVED
4. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The (2003) LIKED
5. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (2002) LIKED
6. Casablanca (1942) LOVED 7. Schindler's List (1993) LOVED
8. Shichinin no samurai (1954) [Seven Samurai] HAVEN’T SEEN
9. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The (2001) LOVED
10. Citizen Kane (1941) LOVED 11. Star Wars (1977) LOVED (but like less now)
12. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) LOVED
13. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) LOVED 14. Rear Window (1954) SEEN, BARELY RECALL
15. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) LOVED
16. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) LOVED 17. Memento (2000) LOVED
18. Usual Suspects, The (1995) LOVED 19. Pulp Fiction (1994) LOVED
20. North by Northwest (1959) LIKED
21. Fabuleux destin d'Amelie Poulain, Le (2001) [Amelie] LIKED
22. Psycho (1960) LOVED 23. 12 Angry Men (1957) LOVED
24. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) LOVED 25. Silence of the Lambs, The (1991) LOVED
26. Buono, il brutto, il cattivo, Il (1966) [The Good, the Bad and the Ugly] LOVED
27. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) HATE!!! 28. Goodfellas (1990) LOVED
29. American Beauty (1999) LOVED 30. Vertigo (1958) HAVEN’T SEEN
31. Sunset Blvd. (1950) HAVEN’T SEEN 32. Pianist, The (2002) HAVEN’T SEEN
33. Matrix, The (1999) HATE 34. Apocalypse Now (1979) LOVED
35. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) LOVED 36. Some Like It Hot (1959) LOVED
37. Taxi Driver (1976) LOVED 38. Paths of Glory (1957) HAVEN’T SEEN
39. Third Man, The (1949) HAVEN’T SEEN
40. C'era una volta il West (1968)[Once Upon a Time in the West] LOVED
41. Fight Club (1999) LOVED 42. Boot, Das (1981) LOVED
43. Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (2001) (Spirited Away) HAVEN’T SEEN
44. Double Indemnity (1944) HAVEN’T SEEN
45. L.A. Confidential (1997) LIKED 46. Chinatown (1974) HAVEN’T SEEN
47. Singin' in the Rain (1952) HAVEN’T SEEN
48. Requiem for a Dream (2000) HAVEN’T SEEN
49. Maltese Falcon, The (1941) HAVEN’T SEEN 50. M (1931) LOVED
51. All About Eve (1950) HAVEN’T SEEN
52. Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957) LOVED
53. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) LOVED 54. Se7en (1995) LIKED
55. Saving Private Ryan (1998) LOVED
56. Cidade de Deus (2002) [City of God] HAVEN’T SEEN
57. Raging Bull (1980) LOVED 58. Wizard of Oz, The (1939) LOVED
59. Rashmon (1950) HAVEN’T SEEN 60. Sting, The (1973) LIKED
61. American History X (1998) LOVED 62. Alien (1979) LOVED
63. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) SEEN, BARELY RECALL
64. Leon (The Professional) (1994) LIKED
65. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) LOVED
66. Vita bella, La (1997) (Life Is Beautiful) LOVED
67. Touch of Evil (1958) SEEN, BARELY RECALL
68. Manchurian Candidate, The (1962) LOVED
69. Wo hu cang long (2000) (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) HAVEN’T SEEN
70. Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948) HAVEN’T SEEN
71. Great Escape, The (1963) HAVEN’T SEEN
72. Clockwork Orange, A (1971) LOVED 73. Reservoir Dogs (1992) LOVED
74. Annie Hall (1977) HAVEN’T SEEN 75. Amadeus (1984) LIKED
76. Jaws (1975) LOVED 77. Ran (1985) HAVEN’T SEEN
78. On the Waterfront (1954) LIKED 79. Modern Times (1936) LOVED
80. High Noon (1952) LIKED 81. Braveheart (1995) LIKED
82. Apartment, The (1960) HAVEN’T SEEN
83. Sixth Sense, The (1999) LIKED 84. Fargo (1996) LOVED
85. Aliens (1986) LIKED 86. Shining, The (1980) LOVED
87. Blade Runner (1982) LOVED 88. Strangers on a Train (1951) HAVEN’T SEEN
89. Duck Soup (1933) LOVED 90. Metropolis (1927) HAVEN’T SEEN
91. Finding Nemo (2003) HAVEN’T SEEN
92. Donnie Darko (2001) HAVEN’T SEEN
93. Toy Story 2 (1999) LIKED 94. Princess Bride, The (1987) LOVED
95. General, The (1927) HAVEN’T SEEN 96. City Lights (1931) HAVEN’T SEEN
97. Lola rennt (1998) (Run Lola Run) LOVED
98. Full Metal Jacket (1987) LOVED 99. Notorious (1946) HAVEN’T SEEN
100. Sjunde inseglet, Det (1957) [The Seventh Seal] HAVEN’T SEEN

In case you were wondering.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Parrot's oratory stuns scientists, New Hampshire voters. But seriously. There seems to be a parrot who does far more than (ahem) just parrot. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The parrot fancier in the story says that we should consider whether we are meeting our parrrots' needs. I'll say! We should also consider whether the fuckers are hiding thumbs under their feathers!

Read me now and believe me later: if ANY animal other than a human EVER speaks sensibly to me in an personlike way, I will 1) freak out 2) devote myself to the loving service of said animal for the rest of my days.

Or I'll take him into a bar in the hopes that he'll sing the Michigan Rag and get me some free beer.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Gotten mail there.

create your own visited country map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Gotten mail there.

create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Been there.

create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Been there.

create your own visited country map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Michael "controversial filmaker" Moore endorsed Acting Ensign Wesley Clark for president. I was surprised and, at first, baffled by the news. I have since read Moore's explanation for his endorsement and, while I don't share his enthusiasm, I at least understand from where he is coming a bit better. (I'm going somewhere with this).

At the heart of Moore's endorsement is the notion that (only) Clark can thrash Dubyah come November. Given that the conventional wisdom seems to have turned on Howie Dean, and given that J(f)K is the newly-annointed frontrunner, Moore's logic is appealing. And now comes word that the Dubyah dissertion story has reemerged . . .

What will Duyah do?

Try this: dump Cheney for Powell.

Over the last few days, I've seen lots of Dick on the web. Cheney, too. He 1) is taking experimental heart meds 2) was late for Davos 3) is talking WMDs in Iraq even though that horse is long dead 4) defending Halliburton. I'm sure there is more. To quote Harvey Keitel in "Reservoir Dogs": [there have been] "A lot" [of stories about Dick lately]. Dick is looking a bit limp. Dubyah has a useless Dick on his hands. And no matter what anyone tells you, Dick is not easy on the eyes.

Why Powell? He's "black", for one thing. That would be very much in keeping with Dubyah's "leave no card unplayed" strategy. But even better, Colin has that whole military thing going for him. Dubyah don't (and neither does Dick, who was more than a bit Deanish during Vietnam). Consider Clark's stars dimmed, should my hunch have merit. And even if Clark doesn't make it, Kerry's Vietnam record would be equally eclipsed.

I know what you're thinking: "But Powell is a moderate! Powell is the diplomatizer! Powell is the anti-Dick!" Keep thinking that way and you may find yourself voting to re-elect Dubyah. For one thing, I have never bought that. For another, Powell is, firstest and mostest, a politician. You don't earn your second (never mind fourth) star without being one. And where did Colin go after his tour in 'Nam ended? The Nixon White House. He stayed in DC, in politically sensitive positions, until he resigned during Clinton's first term. Powell has yet to meet a political task he didn't like. And I'll bet the following scenario has crossed his mind . . .

Vice President Powell becomes the highest ranking elected AfAm pol in US history. He is then within spitting distance of President Powell.

Could I be right? Or could I be more wrong? Either way, you saw it here (first or not, you did see it here).

I hope I'm wrong. I hope Michael Moore is wrong, too, but mostly because I'm creeped out by the notion of electing a general to save the country.

Captain Kangaroo is dead. To be perfectly honest, I thought he had been dead for some time. Nevertheless, I'm sad to see that it is true.

Friday, January 23, 2004

I am SOOOOOO sorry that I didn't get it together to listen to the the State of the Union Address on the web or something. It seems that I missed a totally pumped up unintentionally funny and embarrassing motherfucking program activity.

That's probably the thing I miss most about living in the US (other than all the freedom, of course): getting to hear Dubyah say stupid shit.

Do yourself a favor and follow the link, by the way.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Um, Kerry? Remind me to stay the fuck out of Iowa.

In other news: today is MLK, Jr. day, yes? Happy that. The US is almost as far from his dream now as it was when he was alive (I recently saw updated stats on school segregation: 1969 levels).

In other other news: the State of the Union is coming up, yes? Here are my predictions:

-- the economy is going great guns, but taxes still suck ass (applause)
-- the war on Terrah is going great guns, but hard work is ahead (applause)
-- we're going to the Moon! and Mars! (applause)
-- Saddam Hussein is still under arrest (applause)
-- the war in Iraq is going great guns, but hard work is ahead (applause)
-- everything else is just ducky, but vigilance is in order (applause)

We shall see.

I heard "El Refran Se Te Olvido" by Celina Gonzalez and "Du He Kah (The Healer)" by Patti Scialfa and Jonathan Elias.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Enough time has passed since Dubyah's "Too da Moon!" moment, I think, for me to go on and say that I'm curious as to why I've not seen the following theory run up the flagpole. Since I haven't seen it in someone else's words, I will give it to you in my own.

I have a theory.

There are several fairly obvious possible reasons why Dubyah is calling for a renewed push into space. One is that he has "faith of the heart". Another is that the effort will send tons of money into the pockets of all the Right people. Another is that he may think he can "inspire" voters. My theory deals with a less obvious possible reason. This reason may be broken down into two component parts.

1) You may recall that China, not so long ago, made a big deal about trying to mount a moon mission. They even sent a fellow into space. News coverage was not as big as it might have been, but it was there.
2) China is, by many accounts, the country best positioned to be a genuine rival to the US in the future. Many on the right, including Neocons, are convinced that China must therefore be nipped in the bud.
Add 1 and 2 and you get 3) Dubyah is planning on a new space race with China. He and his handlers know that the original space race (between the US and Soviets) not only gave a huge economic boost to certain key areas in big battleground states (Orange County, Houston, central Florida) and defense contractors (Boeing, in Washington state, and the former Martin Marietta plant in suburban Atlanta), but it also gave a sports-like thrill-show version of international politics to the bread and circus masses. And it boosted respect for the military (in the form of astronauts).

Oh and by the way: if you are looking up at the stars, you may not be as likely to notice what's going on on the ground. In the heyday of the space race, the US was dealing with a bitter and protracted (and violent) struggle over civil rights for African Americans, massive urban and rural poverty issues (hence the War on Poverty), and Vietnam. Not to mention the counterculture movement, assassinations, awesome corruption scandals, and worldwide conflict. All was NOT well.

But gee that John Glenn was handsome. And the papers wanted to know whose shirts he wore.

Braun Drops Out, Endorses Dean. The C.M-B. machine will now, no doubt, make Dean an unstoppable force.

Why does this make me think Hillary Clinton might be announcing something soon?

Also note that a left leaning mag, In These Times, doesn't seem to realize that NOW stands for National Organization FOR Women (not "of"). Sheesh.

Thursday, January 15, 2004


That's what Dubyah promises.

Lookit: I love me some sci fi. I love me some sci. I think the US screwed up decades ago by not following up on the lunar missions.


Taxes: cut. Deficit: record levels and rising. Military spending: record levels and rising. Baby Boomers: shuffling towards retirement. Economy: has been better, may well get worse. Wars: 2 ongoing, others looking loomy.

Everyday the bucket go to the well. One day the bottom of her drop out.

Starve the beast, indeed.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Today in class my students and I discussed the summit meeting just ending in Monterrey. Did you hear about it? Basically it was all the leaders of the various states of North and South America (minus Cuba) having a big talky talk. The conversation (with my students) was very interesting and reminded me of three main things.

1) my students (mostly wealthy, mind you) are generally FAR to the left of their counterparts in the US
2) my students (rabid consumers of US pop culture) are generally very unhappy about the behavior of the US government (particularly as regards US/Mexico relations)
3) my students (tenth graders) are generally FAR better informed about your average run of the mill foreign affairs to and fro than are most adults I've met in the US (including at university).

These are good things. If these kids are the future of Mexico, then that future is bright.

In other news, literally, I recently watched the 60 Minutes interview with Michael Jackson (my landlord taped it off the satellite and loaned it to me). From what I know of his current travails, I've come to the determination that I would make an excellent juror in some respects. This is because I find both his guilt and innocence almost equally plausible ("almost" means that, in the true spirit of justice, I'm fully prepared to assume that he is innocent and must demand proof).

Child molester or not, however, I'm now TOTALLY convinced that Michael Jackson is right round the bend. Clearly gone fishing. Nuts. Bonkers. In need of the warm embrace of the men in white coats. More than a few bricks shy of a load.

Until recently I was laboring under the tortured misconception that he was only a little looney. I figured he was just a rich guy who had always lived on a different planet from the rest of us, had free access to the pursuit of all the sort of bizzare thoughts which spring, from time to time, into one's head, and gone for it. But now I think he's probably downright crazy (delusional, paranoid, and very possibly a danger to himself or others). Mind you, I know dick all about psychology or psychiatry. I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Having just commented to the effect that I have yet to meet a more or less famous entertainer other than singer, it dawned on me that I have most certainly!

Poly Holliday, tv's Florence Jean "Flo" Castleberry, is (or was) a Whiskeypalian and, with her native Childersburg, Alabama, parish, joined my Bessemer parish on a weekend outing at Camp McDowell one year. She read us ghost stories (it was Halloween) and is very much unlike her tv character.

And yes, I think the comments record has now been broken on this blog.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Ooh! I totally forgot to mention that we have had RAIN here in Gua over the last few days. Quite a bit, in fact. Right now there is a genuine shower coming down.

This is NOT normal.


Our friends Jens and Rita are winging there way back to Germany right now. They were in Mexico for vacation and I hooked up with them for the last leg of their trip a week ago.

I met them in Morelia (which is lovely) and we went to the humping grounds of the monarch butterflies. Get a picture in your head of the largest number of butterflies you can imagine. Got it? Now imagine that a billion more crammed into the picture. It was really cool, especially if you find butterflies or large numbers of critters interesting.

We then went to Patzcuaro, which is one of my favorite places in the world.

Then we came back to Guad, changed clothes, and went to the beach at Cuyutlan. Nice, but I had too much to drink and argued politics with the owner. We moved on to Barra de Navidad, which rocked. We ate in a restaurant on the lagoon and there were loads of those spiky poisonous puffer fish swimming around. A fisherman kept accidentally catching them in his net and they puffed up and floated while he tried to (gently) get them out of his net without getting stuck.

Then we came back to Guad and hung around. Last night we cooked red snapper (mmmmmm, and cheap here) and clams.

Good ole Rita and Jens! Hurrah!

This afternoon they bought a replica jersey from a Mexican soccer team sponsored by a bread company called Bimbo. So now I have a soccer jersey with BIMBO in bright red letters on the front. I win.

While I was off enjoying myself, Scott posted a rather impressive list of famous people he has been at least near. I mentioned that I once complimented Eddie Money and was thanked for my effort. I have met other famous people, though.

When I was at Southern Miss, I worked for a year with Dr Marjorie Spruill (Wheeler then) organizing the university lecture series. Part of my job was to go fetch the speakers from the airport, so I was able to have decent contact with several semi-famous people including Clarence Page, Russell Means, and Morris Dees.

I also met Susan Faludi (I'm tired of links already: she is a writer), Betty Shabazz (widow of Malcolm X), and Nelson Mandela's daughter (name escapes me) that way.

Also at USM, I met Kwame Ture (Stokley Carmichael). I blogged on that below.

Also at USM, a girl asked me about my Allman Brothers t-shirt. I said I liked them and that they were really good and she should check them out. Turns out her uncle was Jaimo (one of the drummers) and she couldn't believe someone my age liked them.

In high school I asked a question of my senator, Howell Heflin, regarding campaign financing and he was forced to hem and haw. I said "Guten Morgen, Herr Doktor Kinkel" to the German Foreign Minister (under Kohl) back when I was working in Bonn and he said "backatcha!" to me. Around the same time, I met (and sang a song with) German folk singer Heino (who is so cheesy as to be worth a link).

I saw former Major League Baseball star Willie McGee in the St. Louis airport once. I said "Excuse me, sir. Are you Willie McGee?" He said "Not today, man, sorry" and walked away. I thought "Wait a minute! The Cardinals have a game in Chicago this afternoon! Why is he still in St. Louis?" (that was back when I knew on any given day where my Cubs were and who they were playing against). I later learned that he had just been traded to Oakland and he probably wasn't too happy about it.

That same day, I heard Umpire Dana Demuth paged.

I later met Harry Caray and got his autograph. I've also met Steve Garvey.

Scott and I both dated a girl whose sister's friend dated Harry Connick Jr.

I met and got autographs from the members of Ladysmith Black Mambazzo.

And, of course, one of my goodest buddies is Mama.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

By the way, I've noticed a rather bright star over the last few days. It is sort of in the southwest sky (from Mexico, anyway). What is it? Do you know? It seems awfully lonely.

Also, if Gollum would here I would win escape with this question: What is causing my ?/ key to stick all of a sudden?

My regular reader will notice that it has been some time since I last blogged regarding the various Dem candidates’ positions on issues of concern to me. The reason should come as no surprise: boredom. See, like most people who pay a bit of attention to politics, I pretty much had my mind made up before I began the project, and so the process of looking up facts made my brain sleepy. I will give it a modified nuther go, however.

Assuming all of the candidates now running stay in long enough for me to get the option of voting for them, here are the PRIMARY CANDIDATES WHO WON’T GET MY VOTE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES (alphalbatized by last name):

* Acting Ensign Wesley Clark
* John “Sinners in the hands of an Angry God” Edwards
* Richard “Dick” Gephardt
* John “Fuck” Kerry
* Vice President Joe Lieberman
* Carol “Placeholder for Hillary” Mosley-Braun

The short answer to “why not?” is that I won’t vote for anyone who supported the Iraq war in any way (Clark was critical, but that ain’t enough). I’m particularly disappointed by J”F”K on this one, and his “I was lied to” routine doesn’t make it better. The VPOTUS has, at least, had the stones to not be wishy washy about it. As for Carl: tsk tsk.

There are long answers for each candidate, the short version of which is Clark was a General, Edwards is too conservative, Gephardt is too old guard, Kerry is too wishy washy, Lieberman is too conservative, and Mosley-Braun is too wishy washy.

Here are the PRIMARY CANDIDATES WHO COULD POSSIBLY GET MY VOTE (alphalbatized by last name):

* Little Howard Dean
* Dennis (the Serb [or is it Croat?] brother who swings so easily in tight pants) Kucinich
* Al “Sharp” Sharpton

The short answer to “why?” is the war. Dean loses points for seeming only to be against *this* war, and not war in general (yes: I think it is high time a major politician in the US came out publicly and said that they were down on war in general). Kucinich and Sharpton are, across the board, closer to my personal politics than are any of the others (and FAR to the left of Dean, who is nothing but the less-sexy second coming of Clinton: do not be fooled).

It is entirely possible that K and S won’t make it through to Super Tuesday (when I’ll get to vote), so I’ll probably be stuck with Howie. If they hang on, though, I’m going to have a hard time picking between them.

And now, the WILD CARD: Hillary Clinton would never get my vote in a primary, unless Loverman were her only opponent.

In the general election, the only Dems who could conceivably get my vote (barring an interesting newcomer) are D, K, and S.

A word on NADER and a word on the GREENS:

For the first time in my life, Ralph “Party Crasher” Nader has hurt my feelings. I must now shun him as a presidential candidate, given that he has distanced himself from the Greens. I voted for him in 2000 (con gusto), mocked liberal Democrats for him, drove to DC for him, and convinced my parents to vote for him (!). I did all of this for two basic reasons 1) I like(d) him and 2) his fame could help kickstart a (much needed) Green Party. I knew he wouldn’t win, of course, but thought (correctly) that his candidacy would make Green a more vivid color. Now he’s thinking of running on his own, and that means voting for him would REALLY be throwing away a vote (as it would do absolutely no good for anyone). Sigh. This may mean that the Green Party will be unable to mount a real campaign this time, which will suck. However, if they (or the various [and there are many] socialists) can come up with a real candidate and a real campaign, I will do what I urged people to do last time and VOTE MY HOPES, NOT MY FEARS. As bad as Dubyah is, the solution is not Dubyahlite.

Having said that, I have to agree with all decent people that Dubyah is a nightmarishly awful president. I really don’t want him to get reelected. Having said THAT, I simply cannot vote for anyone with whom I disagree on most fundamental issues. If the Dems manage to put up a candidate who is measurably to the left of Bush (rhetoric doesn’t count: I mean action), I could vote for that person.

That means D, K, or S (obviously), and possibly G, the other K, or M-B. Of course, the days in Hell have been getting a tiny bit chillier, of late, so who knows.

Meanwhile, I hear "Rio" by Duran Duran.

Friday, January 02, 2004

For the first time since I was an infant, I have paid absolutely no attention to college football this season. I'm not proud of it, but there you go.

However, I found myself drawn to the ESPN page and noticed the bowl scores. I saw that both USM and West Virginia lost, and so I am sad about that. I noticed also that Bama stayed home this year. But the biggest thing that struck me was this:

What in the name of Bear was Georgia Tech doing in a bowl? Don't get me wrong: I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Ramblin' Wreck (in fact, they won the first bowl game I ever attended: the Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham long years ago), but if you've got a 6-6 record, you should be enjoying family time come the holidays.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

The clock is ticking towards midnight and I find myself put in mind of previous year changes . . .

In 2002-3 Birgit and I were in Pittsburgh, PA. That wasn’t bad, as our friend Sharon performed again (with a great band this time). The party we went to later was close to boring, though.
In 2001-2 Birgit and I were in Hattiesburg, MS. We were at a smallish party at a home and then a party at a bar. That was nice, as it involved seeing lots of folks I hadn’t seen in a while, one of whom died in a car accident not long thereafter.
In 2000-1 I had some folks (including Birgit) over to my apartment in Morgantown, WV. I had a party in mind, but I am not sure if it was fun. The people present were nice and all, but I’m not very good, I think, at throwing parties.
In 1999-2000 Birgit and I were in Wuppertal, Germany. We had a few friends over to Birgit’s apartment. We then went to a party. That was fun, although I got really drunk and have some vague memories of the evening.
In 1998-99 Birgit and I were in Pittsburgh, PA and watched our friend Sharon perform as part of the downtown Pittsburgh festivities. Her performance went well. I have only vague memories of the party we went to afterwards, other than that we walked in the door JUST as midnight struck and Prince started coming out of the speakers. I also remember that it was VERY cold.
In 1997-98 I *think* I was with my parents in Tulsa. Or was I in Stillwater? Scott? Shelley?
In 1996-97 Birgit and I went to TWO AWFUL parties in Bonn, Germany with our friend Jens. It was VERY cold, and very boring.
In 1995-96 Birgit and I went to an AWFUL “party” in Bonn, Germany. Really boring. As an added bonus, I was designated driver and therefore was stone sober during the boringness (fortunately, as it turns out to have sleeted). The highlight of the evening was a 4 year-old girl accidentally locking herself in the bathroom. Much fun was had getting her out.
In 1994-95 Birgit was in NYC and I had a few people over to my apartment. It would have been better, I think, if I had party throwing talent. Birgit had a blast, though.
In 1993-94 I was alone in a dorm in Bonn, Germany, due to poor travel planning on my part. The air was thick with depression.

I don’t recall anything from previous years.

This year I'm in Guadalajara, Mexico (actually Zapopan). Birgit is asleep on the couch, the champagne substitute is chilling in the fridge, and the holiday classic “Bachelor Party” is on the television.

Happy New Year.

(Christmas vacation was a blast however, and I still intend to blog on the subject)