Friday, February 27, 2009

Movie Ratings

The more specific the MPAA gets about why a movie has received a certain rating, the more hilarious it gets.

I was looking on Fandango to try to figure out what movie I might like to see tomorrow (any suggestions?)

OK, they're not always specific--Confessions of a Shopaholic is rated PG because of "some mild language and thematic elements"
Thematic . . . elements? Are they warning us that there might be an 8th grade English quiz at the end? For which we need to identify the protagonist, an example of foreshadowing, and some elements of theme?
(Also, wouldn't it be great if the raters got to put statements of value in there too? Like, "Mild language, thematic elements, and also this movie is clearly terrible.")

Frost/Nixon gets an R just for "some language." The real reason is probably more like "the producers wanted an R rating because those are the only films that get taken seriously. Also, kids don't want to watch this. C'mon."

But most films seem to get a whole laundry list of naughtiness. Take Taken (R): "intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug reference"

s PG-13 (oh, and I totally forgot that this movie existed) is for "intense sequences of violence and action, brief strong language, smoking and a scene of teen drinking"
But . . . is the teen also smoking? And, see? That's a lot more stuff than Frost/Nixon.

But the reason I wrote this post at all is that the description for Fired Up cracked me up entirely: "crude and sexual content throughout, partial nudity, language and some teen partying"
I think it's the idea of some stuffy movie rater primly declaring that we need to be warned about "some teen partying" that gets me.
Click here to read more . . .

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Netflix-Inspired Bite-Sized Reviews: Part Two

And now for the conclusion of my telling you about the TV shows I've gotten from Netflix, and whether they are worth your time or not.

Slings and Arrows
So, I rented this random Canadian show starring Paul Gross about a Shakespearean theater production (sorry, theatre production) for what I am sure seemed like a good reason at the time. I watched the whole season, because it was all supposedly leading to a BIG REVEAL at the end. The BIG REVEAL was disappointing. And the pace of the series was frustrating slow, taking several episodes to reach even the most obvious and inevitable of developments. There were interesting facets to it (and I'm sure people with more patience and more interest in the subject matter *cough* Scott and Hannah *cough* could love it), but I won't be renting Seasons 2 or 3.

The Wire
TV geeks love this show, but I didn't even make it through the pilot. I think I already knew on some level that it just wasn't going to speak to me. Too gritty. I like funny!

The Tudors
The first few episodes were slightly less than mediocre, but then it picked up a little. (Still smutty, though. Lots of smut.) It's not great TV qua TV--I don't know if non-history nerds would care. And I still have major problems with casting a tiny wee little man as Henry VIII. I'll probably rent the second season . . . eventually.

Rock of Love
Remember what I said about Project Runway vindicating reality TV? Rock of Love vindicates trashy reality TV. It's so trashy! Hilariously trashy. SO AWESOME. Why haven't I put Season 2 on my queue yet? Excuse me for a minute . . . .

(Oh, and here's an old post where I compare The Tudors and Rock of Love. [Rock of Love wins, by the way.])

This is a British series starring Hugh Laurie and it is inexplicably awful. Neal and I tried to watch the first episode, and it was boring and muddled and utterly pointless. We didn't make it past fifteen minutes, and I have no pangs of regret or suspicions that it was ever going to get any better.

Mad Men
This is important: this show and Arrested Development are the only shows ever that I heard praised to highest heavens before I watched them that totally lived up to it. Every good thing you have heard about Mad Men is true. Yes, it is that good. If you haven't yet, find it and watch it. I am telling you this as a friend. I want what is best for you. (It took Neal a few episodes to warm up to it, but then he did. Because it is unequivocally great TV.)

How I Met Your Mother
As I've told you before, I love this show so much. I can't imagine how anyone wouldn't love it.

Flight of the Conchords
It's funny--I liked this show fine when I watched it; it's pretty funny, there are a few laugh-out-loud moments, the songs are good. And then after we had finished watching it, I kept thinking about it and started to like it even more. I'll be honest, it has its boring moments, but overall it's very charming and apparently, it sticks with you.

This show was supposed to be good. There are people out there who practically worship Ricky Gervais. But it isn't, really. The first episode, which features Kate Winslet (parodying herself, as the point of the show is to get famous actors to do that) cynically telling the main characters that she's doing a Holocaust movie because that's how you get an Oscar, was probably funny at the time, but it's hilaaaaaaaaarious now. It was all downhill from there. It features a lot of humiliation humor, which is more sad than funny. We gave up after three and a half episodes.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I've just started this one, and it's pretty good so far. I've been told that it gets better (and, later, that it gets much, much worse). So we'll see--thanks to the magic of Netflix! (They aren't paying me to write this stuff, but wouldn't it be cool if they were?)
Click here to read more . . .

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why I Don't Give Stuff up for Lent

I never gave anything up for Lent as a kid, but many of my friends did. Of course, all those friends were the Catholic kids. Us Protestants just kept on drinking pop and eating candy, straight through 'til Easter.

Now, don't start imagining a bunch of white kids squaring off in the middle of a dirt road, dancing and snapping to prepare for a rumble. The divide between Catholics and miscellaneous non-Catholics was a trivial one. Maybe the Catholic kids tended to be a little closer-knit with each other, since they went to Sunday School--no, CCD--together every week and shared the bigger things like Confirmation in second grade, but it was no big deal.

Still, it wasn't I went to college at Texas "WOOOO, JESUS!!!!!" A&M University (yes, Aggies, it would really be "JESUS, WHOOP!!!!!", but I'm translating for laymen here) that almost everybody I knew gave something up for Lent. Catholics, Methodists, Baptists--the whole shebang. But I just couldn't do it.

There are a lot of obvious benefits to giving something up for Lent--you stop doing something that's probably not great for you anyway, you get a lot of moral support since so many other people are going through the same thing, and the sheer effort and attention involved keeps your eyes on the prize (the prize being Our Risen Lord). Almost every year at this time, I think to myself, "Maybe I should give something up for Lent."

But I don't. The stubborn Protestant kid who still lives in my head won't get on board.
Click here to read more . . .

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Netflix-Inspired Bite-Sized Reviews: Part One

(I also considered naming this post "Netflix: The Neverending Journey." I also considered making it one post, but then it got real long.)

I love Netflix now as much as I did when Netflix and I first got together. As you may recall, Netflix saved me from my crippling addiction to purchasing seasons of TV shows on DVD (now I only buy the really, really good ones).

Most of what I rent is TV shows instead of movies. What can I say? I'm a big fan of TV (as, yeah I'll say it, an art form, not [just] as an excuse to veg out on the couch). And now, for your enlightenment (or, more likely . . . because I want to), I will now give you the lowdown on the shows Netflix has lovingly sent to me. (Maybe I'll do the movies some other time? If anybody cares?)

In rental order, from least to most recent:

Project Runway: Season 1
Project Runway is so good that it justifies the existence of reality television. It's been worth all the dreck just to get to Project Runway. (That said, I regret having rented this because it contributed to my delay in purchasing that particular season.)

St. Elsewhere
I rented this for William Daniels purposes. He was great, but there just wasn't enough of him to justify continuing to watch this show (I stopped after the first six or so episodes). It's surprisingly similar to current medical shows, with a big ensemble cast and the same issues (medical ethics, STDs going around the randy staff), but it's glacially-paced.

Big Love
Great show. The characters can be maddening, but they're meant to be. The first season is a little better than the second.

A cult favorite, but apparently you had to be there. Eminently skippable.

The Closer
Very very good show. It's a procedural crime show but actually interesting and well-acted. However, for a reason I still can't explain, I never got around to watching Season 3 and it sat around here for months until I gave up and sent it back. I should give it another try sometime.

It took awhile for Firefly to grow on me, but then it did. Smart, funny, interesting sci-fi (cowboys in space!)--just don't listen to the theme song.

This show is over-hyped. People say it's so challenging and interesting because the protagonist is a serial killer. But A) he only kills really bad people, so it's as easy to root for him as it is for any vigilante hero and B) it's not as deep as people pretend it is because he explains his motivations and feelings in voiceovers. That's not challenging, it's easy. I don't regret watching it, but I just didn't care about it.

I tried to watch the pilot and it simply did not grab me. I suppose I should give it another chance, but I think it's just not my style.

Lois and Clark: Season 3
This show isn't good, but it has a lot of nostalgia value for me. This is a prime example of saving me from a frivolous purchase since I do own the first two seasons (although I like those better anyway).

Joan of Arcadia
Season 2 isn't as good as Season 1, but it's still a very good show. This is one whose cancellation I still mourn. Sweet and funny, even if Joan sometimes bugs.
Click here to read more . . .

Monday, February 23, 2009

Keeping Up With My Correspondence, All-Campus Edition

Dear guy on Library Mall who was handing out student government election flyers,

No, thanks; I'm a grad student.

And by "I'm a grad student" I do not mean "Please tailor your message to me as a grad student and explain why this election is 'important' to grad students as well as undergrads." I mean, "I spent four years at a different university caring about student government and that absorbed my entire capacity to care about student government forever. In perpetuity. For the entire duration of eternity."

Thanks and gig 'em,

* * * * * * * *

Dear librarian who was wearing a t-shirt,

Dude, did they invent Casual Monday while I wasn't looking?


* * * * * * * *

Dear guy who sat behind me in the library,

Quick question: are you an assassin sent to murder me by the most subtle and undetectable means possible? Because your constant, weird, half-sniffing, half-throat-clearing thing almost killed me.

Just wondering,
Click here to read more . . .

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Reasons I'm Not Watching the Oscars

1. I do not like to watch awards shows. They're so boring--sure, maybe there will be an interesting/funny moment or three, but that's out of hours of watching people clapping, suffering through stiff and mannered presenters, and listening to tedious acceptances speeches ("And I want to thank Roland, our craft services guy! I couldn't have done it without those cocktail weenies!" Sure, it's totally awesome for Roland the Craft Services Guy [and Roland the Craft Services Guy's mom] to be mentioned on national tv, but for the millions of other people? Not so interesting.)

2. Even in a cultural significance way, I just don't care that much about seeing the Oscars. I'm only very very mildly curious about who wins the major awards, and that gets on the internet as soon as they're announced.

3. The musical numbers and montages are hit-or-miss, with more misses than hits. Sure, maybe there will be one good song with fun choreography, but for that one song, there will be two terrible songs and one endless "Tribute to Key Grips Through the Ages."

4. I don't see many movies. I assume I'd be more invested if I had seen Slumdog Millionaire and/or Frost/Nixon, but no dice. (Also, I had to ask Neal to remind me of any Best Picture nominees besides Slumdog Millionaire.) I'm just not that absorbed in the whole movie-making scene. I find the Oscars more interesting than the Grammys, sure, but that isn't saying much. (I wish I liked the Emmys more but A: see point #1 and B: nominees and winners of Emmys are usually totally undeserving, and frankly it seems more and more every year that the people in charge of the Emmys don't watch TV. But that's a different rant, now isn't it?)

5. We, uh, don't have ABC anymore. This probably makes my indignation at the postponement of the digital switch seem pretty stupid, but for whatever reason our tv/antenna cannot find digital ABC. It was one of the Madison networks that switched on the 17th, so watcing the Oscars in this household is actually impossible. For reasons 1-3, I am not bothered by it in this instance, but Neal was a little disappointed. (I guess he likes movies and tributes to key grips more than I do.)
Click here to read more . . .

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Xanga Reclamation Project #2

Man, it's a good thing I have these; I have not been feelin' it on the blog front the past few days (and I gots to keep up the streak!). So here's another old Xanga post. In order to make it a little less cheat-y, I'll add some new stuff at the end in curly brackets. (Yay, curly brackets!)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

In the interest of making my Xanga more random (and more like I originally intended it), here is a list that pertains to nothing much.

A List!

(Oh, and feel free to think of your own, or, if you feel so inclined, pick a fight with me over choices you feel are dumb.)

My Favorite Character in:

1. Star Wars = Darth Vader

2. Harry Potter = Ron Weasley

3. Back to the Future = Doc Brown

4. Lord of the Rings = Legolas (ok, just because Orlando Bloom is hot. It's not like I've read it or anything.)

5. Friends = Fat Monica (she's just so fun!)

6. ER = Dr. Kovach (the hotness again, I'm afraid)

7. The Simpsons = Fat Tony

8. Joan of Arcadia = Luke Girardi (yay nerd!)

9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles = Raphael (as far as I remember)

10. Shrek = hot Shrek (that is to say, Shrek in human form from Shrek II)

11. The Princess Bride = Westley (he is even cooler than he is hot [no pun intended])

12. Calvin and Hobbes = Hobbes

13. Animaniacs (not including Pinky and the Brain, from which my choice is Pinky) = Yakko

14. Monty Python and the Holy Grail = Sir Galahad

15. Sense and Sensibility = Colonel Brandon

16. Bridget Jones = Mark Darcy (is there any room for argument there, though?)

17. A Mighty Wind = Mickey (of Mitch and Mickey)

18. Love Actually = Jamie (you know, the one Colin Firth plays)

19. Fresh Prince of Bel Aire = Geoffrey, the butler

20. Star Trek = Jean-Luc Picard

21. Law and Order = Lenny Briscoe

22. Everybody Loves Raymond = Robert

23. 3rd Rock from the Sun = Harry

24. 1776 = John Adams

And that's all I can think of.

{25. Scrubs = Dr. Kelso}

{26. Gargoyles = Macbeth. Man, that guy is awesome.}

{27. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (having seen only the first eight episodes) = Willow}

{28. How I Met Your Mother = Barney}

{29. Firefly = ooh, this is a tough one . . . Wash.}

{30. Black Adder = Lord Flasheart}

{31. Futurama = Bender (like the Barney pick, it's obvious, but it's just true.) }

{32. The Incredibles = Violet}

{33. Terry Pratchett Discworld books = Death}

{34. South Park = Cartman}

{35. Flight of the Conchords = Jemaine}

{36. Ugly Betty = Justin}

{37. Dollhouse (so far) = Boyd (the "handler")}

{38. 30 Rock = Liz}

{39. The Office = Pam}

Click here to read more . . .

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Like Rainbows

So I'm going to put up a rainbow of pictures!

Click here to read more . . .

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Brace Yourselves

How could I not blog about the Mike Leach contract hoopla? (I'm going to put a lot of reference links in this entry, but if you only click one, it should be this one.)

I sort of assumed that this story had been put to bed near the end of the season, when Leach didn't get offered any of the jobs he had seemed to show interest in. Despite the general feeling that Leach and Tech's AD don't get along, it seemed a matter of course that if Leach was staying, Tech would be only too glad to keep him and keep him happy.

But no!

The AD, Gerald Myers, cannot come to an agreement with Leach over a new contract. The dispute is officially about certain clauses in the contract Tech has offered that Leach objects to. It's not about the money--it's about whether the university has the right to fire Leach if he goes on interviews for other jobs without permission, and it's about (according to Kirk Herbstreit) whether Tech gets any money from personal speaking engagements that he takes. Despite Leach's fairly well-documented eccentricities, it seems pretty obvious that Myers is the crazy one here. (That latter clause is just stupid.) It really just comes down to a game of ego-fueled chicken. It's my guess that Myers is being intentionally intransigent because he doesn't like Leach and wants to drive him off.

It seems possible that, against all common sense but given the weird statement that the Tech board of regents is going to discuss "the position of the head football coach," Leach might actually get fired for not signing the extension as offered. I agree with Tim Griffin that this can go down one of two ways: they let Leach have his way, or THEY BLOW IT ALL UP. It is well-known that I seriously dislike Texas Tech, but seriously, guys--how stupid are you? Leach's accomplishments at Texas Tech are unparalleled in the program's history. He has won consistently and is coming off Tech's best season ever. Why in the world do they think that getting rid of Leach will allow them to trade up?I agree with the Sports Illustrated guy who wrote the article "Firing Mike Leach would be program suicide for Texas Tech."

So, I mean, I want them to do it. It can only be good for the Ags (and every other team in the Big XII) if Texas Tech takes the crown from Auburn for Dumbest Athletic Department in the World. And, as previously established, I don't like that school. On the other hand, it just bothers me on a fundamental level when humans are that stupid. But, to make this a little more interesting, let's take a look at this quote from the SI article that is threatening to break my mind:

Of course, if Leach gets fired and Mike Sherman has a second dismal season in College Station, maybe the Aggies, who have far more financial resources than the Red Raiders, will snap up the mad genius and make him their 12th man.

Oh, holy cats. I can't wrap my mind around that. I mean . . . it's just . . . there's . . . I don't . . . can you imagine pirate flags at Kyle Field? Obviously, the writer is making several leaps there (that Leach will be fired, that Sherman will be fired [I'm still holding out hope that he can turn it around], that A&M will be more willing to take Leach, pirates and all, than Tennessee et al were, and that A&M would be go after an all-offense guy when the program's identity is so wrapped up in defense), but if that spitballing prediction actually came to be--no, seriously. I can't wrap my mind around that.
Click here to read more . . .

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

And Now for Today's Henry VII Moment

Henry VII was not a fun guy. According to his early-ish biographer Francis Bacon, the only thing he really found fun was work. He didn't have friends, either. If you look through English history, you'll find lots of monarchs who had favorites/boon companions/most trusted advisers. Trusting people wasn't Henry's gig, though. This is the best story Bacon tells about him:

He was a prince sad, serious, and full of thoughts and secret observations, and full of notes and memorials in his own hand, especially concerning persons. As whom to employ, whom to reward, whom to inquire of, whom to beware of, what were the dependencies, what were the factions, and the like; keeping (as it were) a journal of his thoughts. There is to this day a merry tale, that his monkey (set on as it was thought by one of his members of court) tore his principal notebook all to pieces, when by chance it lay forth. Whereat the court . . . was almost tickled with sport.

And this has been your Henry VII Moment.
Click here to read more . . .

Monday, February 16, 2009

Three Miscellaneous Internet Items

1. " . . . Whaaaaaat?"

My home page is Google News, so I browse the ol' headlines whenever I open my browser. Occasionally, I'll see a headline that makes me say " . . . Whaaaaaaat?" Tonight, there were two. Big day for weird news:

Founder of Islamic TV station accused of beheading wife

That's just not good for anybody.

Chimp Shot to Death After Mauling Woman
The chimp's name was "Travis."

2. Four Gregs!

A couple weeks ago, I expressed my concern about the direction of Today's update, however, was more than satisfactorily funny. It's kind of a Teen Boy Squad!

3. A YouTube video. That involves cats. And also a small child being childlike. It's an internet perfect storm!

My friend Chanda posted this on Facebook, and it is cute.

Click here to read more . . .

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Guilty Displeasures, Pt. 2: The Neal File

And now, for my inaugural post on our blog, my top three guilty displeasures:

3. Peanuts:

Man, do I feel bad about this one. Most people I know seem to have real great memories of growing up with Charlie Brown and the gang. Watching the holiday specials, reading the Sunday comic strips, and enjoying Charlie's endless humiliation as he never, ever gets to kick the football. Though I do remember watching the Christmas special when I was a kid, I just. don't. get. it. The comic strip was never funny (at least none that I ever read) and really, the whole thing was always pretty depressing. Charlie is always sad and run-down, that one kid always stinks, and Linus clings desperately to his security blanket as the only source of existential comfort in the children's bleak, disjointed world. In other words, it just isn't any fun. I feel bad about it, but . . . meh.

2. Baseball:

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of baseball. Watching James Earl Jones tell Mr. and Mrs. America what baseball has meant to their country gets me choked up every time. And nothing, nothing can make a grown man cry faster than this:

And yet, I've just never been able to get excited about the sport itself. Part of the problem is that I was always more of a basketball kid than a baseball kid. If I had never met my Dad, I would build a basketball court in my cornfield, so he could come back to life and and play me in HORSE. Hey, this script writes itself . . .

1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:

Oh no, I don't even mean the Tim Burton remake. I mean the original Gene Wilder crowd- pleaser. Bring on the hate. I don't even feel bad about this one. I hate, hate, HATE everything about this movie. I hate that Charlie works all day to support his allegedly invalid grandparents, but guess what? When Charlie finds a ticket to tour a magical chocolate factory, suddenly Gramps is feeling young and spry! I hate that an eccentric billionaire candy-maker invites children into his own personal Neverland ranch and tortures them for two hours. I hate that he plays some seriously-twisted mind games with Charlie to determine if he is worthy to take over the factory. What a terrible, terrible movie.
Click here to read more . . .

Guilty Displeasures

These are things that it seems like I'm supposed to love, because society expects it, but instead I just hate them.

Italian food
But you admit that it's ok that I also hate Olive Garden commercials, right?

This one is galling. It seems like I, specifically, ought to like Scrabble because I'm smart, I like words, and I'm good at games--except that one. I am terrible at Scrabble and I don't know why and so it's like torture to have to play it.

See, I know most of you are judging me for this one. They smell, they slobber, they're needy, and they poop in your yard. I just don't get the appeal.
Click here to read more . . .

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lions and Tigers, Only in Kenya!

I like it when I re-find awesome internet stuff. Like this!

If you don't feel like clicking the link, somebody put it on YouTube (the picture quality isn't as good, but it doesn't play on an endless loop):

So cute!

Also, here's a bunch of Japanese kids (as the YouTube description claims) singing Kenya. It's reasonably adorable.
Click here to read more . . .

Friday, February 13, 2009


Joss Whedon specializes in nerd bait. (Admittedly, the only thing of his I've seen in Firefly. I'm getting the first disc of Buffy the Vampire Slayer tomorrow to see if it's worth all the fuss.) The nation's nerds (lots of them, anyway) eagerly anticipated tonight's premiere episode of Dollhouse.

I don't know how other nerds, especially more devoted Whedon geeks, felt about it, but I . . . well, I didn't feel anything about it. I'd have to give it a 5 out of 10, I guess.

The key problem is that I am not sold on Eliza Dushku as an actress. I find her very blah. This ought to work in her favor, since the premise of Dollhouse requires her to be blank person sometimes, but she's not even very good at that. She overacts not having a personality, which you wouldn't think would even be possible. (Joss Whedon obviously disagrees with me in his estimation of her acting talents, since apparently he invented the show specifically so Eliza could play lots of different characters. Whatever.)

I'm also not entirely convinced about the premise itself. There's this shady company that lets really rich people hire women (and also maybe there's one dude?) to do stuff for them. Stuff like being their girlfriend for a weekend or negotiate hostage situations. Now, those two things do not have much in common. It just seems to me like a lot more trouble than it's worth to run this shadowy, super-secret organization to provide beautiful odd-job women. Why would the guy who needed his situation negotiated come to these people instead of finding a real hostage negotiator? (There's a also a sub-plot about some FBI guy trying to expose the operation even though none of his higher-ups believe in him. I didn't find that very engaging.)

One other factor that gives me pause is that it needs must be an ensemble show, since Eliza Dusku's character, Echo, can't carry the show per se, since she isn't aware of what she is a part of, who she is, or that there's anything going on at all. She's the centerpiece, but the show also rests on the peoplel that make her go. And those people, at least so far, aren't all that interesting. The nerd who reprograms her after her "engagements" is fairly grating. But I do want to find out how the doctor character (played by Amy Acker) got those weird scars all over her face.

All that being said, I should re-state that it was not a bad show. There was awkward exposition dialogue, but you've got to forgive that kind of thing in a pilot episode. Other than that, it was fine. Better than a lot of shows out there, that's for sure. It wasn't as funny as I was hoping Whedon would make it, but it wasn't boring either. Finally, one good thing about the premise is that they aren't going to run out things to do (and, of course, it will probably get cancelled before they get a chance to).

I'm pretty sure I'll watch it next week (unless, by some crazy chance, I do something other than watch TV on a Friday night). Again, for all its limitations, it's still better than most shows on television. (Including, at this point, Ugly Betty. Man, that thing has gone downhill fast.) And I would guess that it's going to get better over the next several weeks.
Click here to read more . . .

Thursday, February 12, 2009


You can search the Life Magazine photo archives through Google images. This isn't a new feature, it's just that this evening was the first time I availed myself of it. For kicks and giggles, I searched for my name. It was pretty disappointing.

It's boatloads of Rachel L. Cook, plenty of Rachel Carson, a smattering of Rachel Hunter, and a surprisingly large number of some female bodybuilder named Rachel McLish.

There are only two I thought were interesting:

Jackie Robinson
Baseball star Jackie Robinson w. his wife Rachel as young son Jackie Jr. drinks a glass of milk, on front steps of their home.
Location:Brooklyn, NY, US
Date taken:July 1949

I think I just like the specificity of the caption re: Jackie Jr.'s drink.

And then this one is just weird:

Gov. of Michigan G. Mennen Williams's son Gary (L) posing for a picture with Gov. of Alabama James E. Folsom's daughter Rachel (R) during the Govenor's [sic] convention.
Location:Atlantic City, GA, US
Date taken:June 1956

On a side note, Life's mascot for the 1890s is Queen Victoria. Sometime I'll have to write a post about why I despise her.
Click here to read more . . .

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday Night TV

I can't decide whether I like The Biggest Loser or not. I decided to give it a try several weeks ago, and the first episode I tried happened to be really good. Even though it was a reality show, none of the people were mean--they were even really nice to each other and supportive. It was easy to root for them. Plus, they did this really cool challenge where they had to foot-paddle a boat up to this mountain and then climb the mountain. Then, at the end of the show, they had to vote somebody off, but they voted off the guy who needed the help to lose his weight the least, and he was really sweet about it, and it was a serious tear-jerker. It's a compelling show in that it's pretty cool to see these people who really need to lose weight really losing weight. It's not about something petty or tacky, it's something real and good.

None of the subsequent episodes have been as compelling, though. Sometimes they vote strategically, getting rid of the greater threat or a person on the other trainer's team (and, for the life of me, I can't even figure out why it's beneficial to keep your team members, since only one person can win). Also, the show is hideously slow. It lasts for two hours! Two whole hours! There's tons of filler, millions of commercials, tedious recapping, and molasses-slow editing of the challenges (some of which are very boring. Tonight, they had to hold a bar over their heads. For like four hours).

Therefore, I've developed a system. I have it on and vaguely pay attention during the first hour (maybe I clean or look at my computer at the same time), then at eight I switch over to ABC's back-to-back Scrubs, checking back in with Biggest Loser during Scrubs' commercials.

And that's my segue into talking about Scrubs. This eighth season was not welcomed in all quarters; many people thought the show had run out of gas. It's true, last season was . . . not good. In general, it's had an upswing this year. It's probably better overall than it has been since its fourth or fifth season.

The weirdest thing is that they had to cut back their budget. One of the measures they took was that each cast member has to skip two episodes. Sometimes it's really noticeable--the first one tonight was ZachBraff-less, which is hard to cover up--but sometimes they do a really good job. Last week, both episodes were Turk-free, and I didn't even notice until somebody on the internet pointed it out.

The main problem (as I see it) is that it's fairly uneven from episode to episode. I really enjoyed last week's, but the two tonight were pretty weak. (Tonight's first episode's weakness I blame on Sarah Chalke, because without JD, it was an Elliot-centric episode, and Elliot is [if mostly by default] the least interesting of the major characters.) There's also more focus on some new characters, a batch of interns. One is this really mean girl played by Eliza Coupe (who was also very mean on Flight of the Conchords). I think she's funny, but Neal really dislikes her. Then there was another one played by Aziz Ansari, who I thought was funny when he was on Flight of the Conchords, but who I haaaaaaated on Scrubs. So, again, hit-or-miss.

Overall, I'm glad Scrubs is getting one more crack at it, if only to redeem itself from the lousy seventh season, and to run on a network that actually appreciates it (and promotes it--seriously, how many years ago was it that NBC so much as ran a commercial for Scrubs?). It is worth watching again--most weeks.

My Tuesday routine is going to get tougher if I decide to start watching American Idol again, but even if I do, it won't be for a couple more weeks. I like watching the fairly talented final handful of singers, but I don't want to watch anything until they've weeded out most of the crazies.
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Monday, February 9, 2009

A Sonic Story

A few weeks ago, Neal and I were extremely excited to see that there was a Sonic being built in Middleton. Up until then, the greater Madison area had been distressingly Sonic-free, a problem comparable to the dire lack of Chick-Fil-A. Little did we know that our elation was nothing next to that of native Madisonians.

The first time we drove past Sonic after it was open, every car port looked to be filled. And it was probably 15 degrees out.

The next time, we saw that the city had set up electronic traffic signs to direct people as to the correct way to reach the Sonic. (It's at an awkward point on the road where there's no traffic light to turn left into it.) Again, it was completely full.

Yesterday, we decided to drive out to Middleton to partake of onion rings and cream shakes, but we realized that we shouldn't go at a peak time, especially on a warmish day. We waited until about 2:00. So we drove out there, followed the signs, paid attention to all the orange cones, and turned on the appropriate street. That's when we saw a sign that said "GET PASSES HERE." As we turned onto this little residential street about a block from the Sonic, we saw that there were cars lined up, waiting to get a pass from a guy with one of those county-fair-parking sticks. You had to wait in line (behind, at this point in the afternoon, seven or eight cars) to get a pass so you could then drive down to the Sonic parking lot and wait there until another county-fair-style-parking guy allowed you to move into a car port once one was finally vacated. YEAH. There's a whole system to get people in and out of the Sonic because there are SO MANY people who are desperate for Sonic.

I hope this story accurately conveys how crazy the Middle Sonic situation is.

We went to Culver's instead.
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Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Crime Against the English Language

I realize that I'm a grammar nit-picker. Sure, I don't construct well-wrought sentences on this blog (I like to mimic my own speech patterns, is all), but I get upset about the classics: the wrong there/their/they're, basic misspellings, misplaced apostrophes, etc. Sometimes my local stations run these commercials for a store named--and this is the truth (the horrible, horrible truth)--"Forever Your's Jewelry." "YOUR'S" IS NOT EVEN A WORD. THEY MUST HAVE IT PRINTED ON A PROFESSIONAL SIGN AND THEIR CHECKS AND EVERYTHING. SWEET MERCIFUL HEAVENS, IT IS AGONY.

But that's not what this entry is about. It's about something much more widespread and insidious.

Word definitions are tricky. Over time, they migrate. For instance, in Hamlet (and in general, circa Shakespeare's time), the word "doubt" had the meaning we now give to "suspect." And in a work from the Seventeenth Century that I've been reading, "sad" just means "solemn." These things happen.

Sometimes it's OK if a word drifts from its dictionary meaning. Example: for the hardest-core grammar nazis, "hopefully" only means "full of hope." As in, "She waited hopefully by the phone." Its casual use has clearly moved away from that, meaning "one would hope that...", and I think that's fine. There's no other word that fills the niche of casual "hopefully."

However I will not, nay, CANNOT, stand idly by while people continue to use "literally" wrong. It's supposed to mean "this is the pure truth, it is unvarnished and without hyperbole. It may sound like I'm exaggerating, but I want to emphasize that I am not." No other word does that! Yet people insist on using "literally" just like every other word that can be used to emphasize. They use it like "very" or "really" or "totally" (which, when you look at them, have clearly also been through the same semantic bleaching). They use it to hyperbolize, when that is the opposite of what it's for. When people "literally" to mean "metaphorically," they are killing the word "literally." We already have lots of words that just emphasize and exaggerate. We don't need more of those. We need "literally" to mean "literally," because if "literally" doesn't do its specific job, nothing else will.

Stand with me! We must refuse to succumb to the temptation to use "literally" when we aren't talking about something that really, genuinely, truly, honest-to-goodness happened!
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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Digital Television Update!

My local CBS station just ran a message that I will sum up thusly: "We're going all-digital on February 17th. Suck it up."

So apparently stations can stop analog broadcasting before the federal date, which I was wondering about. Now I wonder--how many will? It costs money for each kind, so if I ran a station, I'd stop analog. Good for WISC-TV.
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Friday, February 6, 2009


TRUE FACT: today was the first time in three years that I went to the doctor and it was not raining. I think it was because it's also the first time in three years that I went a doctor I had been to before. Because nothing is more fun than driving around trying to find an unfamiliar place in the rain.

ALSO A FACT: it was just a checkup. The Nurse Practitioner (I like Nurse Practitioners, don't you? They're just as good as doctors but are generally friendly middle-aged ladies) talked me into getting a tetanus booster (although word on the street is that if I step on a nail, they would give me another one of that same shot whether I'd been boosted or not). When the nurse (Original Style Nurse, not NP) came in to give me the shot, she asked if I had an arm preference, since some soreness could be expected. I said it might as well be the left. But then! I got some blood taken, and I gave the new nurse (a man-nurse named "Romeo") my right arm, since my left arm had just gotten boosted. Note: This was a mistake. My right arm hurt all day long, especially when I was trying to write or carry stuff whilst I experienced no soreness whatsoever in the left one. I am told (word on the street again) that the tetanus arm will start hurting tomorrow, so that should be rad.

SPECIAL BONUS FACT: "Hurt Feelings" from Season 2 of Flight of the Conchords is a great song. (Warning: one instance of strong language, but since they manage to rhyme it with "casserole"? Totally worth it.) I've listened to it and also "Leggy Blonde" (which I realized I had been underrating--dig those harmonies, yo [well, the harmonies and the scissors solo]!) like, 30 times. (That's actually my official estimate for the two combined. I bought them on iTunes!)

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Whole Buncha Pictures

This morning I decided to clear a backlog of pictures off my cell phone. I often take pictures meaning to put them up here, and then forget, so now I'm just going to blitz you with them.

In August, Neal and I went on a lovely honeymoon to picturesque Estes Park, Colorado. I have no pictures of our cute cabin or the view or any of the places we hiked to (I think Neal does, somewhere). What I do have is this bug I saw in a parking lot in Nebraska on our way to Estes Park:

This is a sign I saw in a rest stop bathroom, which may or may not be from the same trip:

Moving on--as a grad student, I rarely know what's going on on campus. So I can't tell you why this giant Bucky was on library square. I only know that a giant Bucky was on library square. And I made my friend Lindsay stand next to him for reference.

Lindsay also scored us some tickets to a Badger football game in late August. Her sister goes to Akron, so we got Akron student tickets--even though we were way down by one endzone, we were really close to the field, which was pretty cool.

Neal and I carved pumpkins for Halloween. His was a freestyle, jaunty carving:

Mine was old-timey Strong Bad:

The first time I got a perfect score on a Guitar Hero song ("My Name is Jonas" in Guitar Hero 3), I got really excited and took a picture of my stats to commemorate the event.

The warmer weather hung around longer this year than it did last year, it seemed to me. I saw this pretty iris after I would have thought it would be loooong dead.

Also, I saw a duck on a fountain. Campus ducks are pretty chill; he let me get pretty close to him.

And once I saw this amusing beer in the grocery store.

There were a couple other pictures (that are--if you can believe it--more riveting than Bitter Woman IPA) which I will hold back a little longer until they can be parts of posts that I keep telling myself I'm going to write. (Teaser: one is about my birthday adventure way back in May, and one is about election night craziness.)
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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

NBC Hates Detroit

As I established in my statuses on Twitter and Facebook on Super Bowl Day, I could not believe that NBC had hired Matt Millen to do analysis for them. I mean, I had already seen him on there once, before the Atlanta-Arizona game (when he all but swore on his firstborn child's life that Atlanta was going to win) and was astounded at the time. But for Super Bowl Sunday? Sitting alongside Tony Dungy and Mike Holmgren? Please, NBC. Why are we supposed to care--AT ALL--what Matt Millen thinks about anything to do with football?

Apparently, the Detroit NBC affiliate agreed with me. They ran a crawl at the bottom of the screen every time Millen talked:
Matt Millen was president of the Lions for the worst eight-year run in the history of the NFL. Knowing his history with the team, is there a credibility issue as he now serves as an analyst for NBC Sports?
As ESPN reported, not everybody thought this was "hilarious." I have heard that Matt Millen is a nice guy. Admittedly, he has decent TV presence. I agree with the Detroit Free Press reporter who writes that nothing Millen said was very interesting, but then at least he presents it smoothly and professionally.

Nevertheless! He has burned all his credibility by being perhaps the worst GM in professional football history. (Or at least modern professional football history. Who knows what shenanigans they got up to in the 30's?) I would go so far as to say that NBC was disrespectful both to football fans, by insinuating that we should seriously listen to the man talk about football (the same is also true regarding their running of all those terrible Al Roker segments) and to Detroit Lions fans, for shoving him back in their faces after they finally got rid of him. Yeah, on some level it's funny that the Lions went 0-16, and it's easy to make fun of Detroit. On the other hand, I defy you to read this Mitch Albom story and not feel at least some empathy for them.

Tony Kornheiser derisively referred to the anti-Millen crawl as a "guerilla tactic." But I've got no problem with guerilla justice when it's the only kind you've got.
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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Possibly the Funniest Blog I've Ever, Ever Seen

One night several months ago, I was up way too late and I ran across a blog. And it made me laugh and laugh and laugh. But then I forgot to bookmark it or anything, possibly because I was disoriented from all the sleepiness and insane laughter. Luckily, Nancy independently found it and sent me the link yesterday, and I won't make the same mistake again! In fact, this time I will remember to tell all of you about it (although the lucky among you probably already know).

Cake Wrecks.

It's a website that makes fun of ugly cakes. And man, there are some UGLY cakes out there. Plus, the blogger (her name is Jen) is very good at making fun of them. (She is also a grammar person, so she often busts on punctuation and, as in this entry, spelling. That's always fun.) Jen has a list of links to "fan favorites" on the right side of the page, so I'm not going to go nuts trying to find the really awesome ones to put up here. But I will show you one (with her commentary) that inspired a message I wrote to Nancy, telling her that it was sent from beyond the grave because I had died laughing:

Here we have a nicely rendered cake-that-looks-like-a-corndog, wishing itself (or perhaps another corndog not pictured) a happy birthday.
I just kept repeating "Happy Birthday, Corndog!" to myself and dying of laughter all over again.

OK, and I will also put up this one:

Baffling inscription?
Atmospheric pollution?
"Rotisserie Chicken" label?
Excess punctuation?
Check, check, check, and check check.

Go! Go look at Cake Wrecks!
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Monday, February 2, 2009

A Development of Concern

The past several months have been very slow, updates-wise, at I think it's because the dudes who run it have been working on a Strong Bad video game? Or something like a video game? I've always been unsure about the concept.

So it's good news that they've updated for two Mondays in a row (they customarily update every Monday, but before last week, they hadn't put up any new material in over a month). But the two new things they have done are "hremails."

Hremails are Homestar Runner Emails, and they're . . . ok. They're better than puppet stuff (I don't know why, because it's the same people working with the same characters, but the puppets things are never funny) but not as good as Strong Bad emails ("sbemails"). I just don't like Homestar as much. In my opinion, he's funnier when he pops up for a few seconds every now and then to say something stupid than when he's carrying a three-minute cartoon. Plus--and I didn't notice this til the first hremail--he's kind of hard to understand when speaking at long stretches.

What makes me slightly more consternated about this is that it's been over four months since there's been a Strong Bad email, and that was #200, in which they introduced the concept of hremail. So--they achieved a big round number, and they invented a concept that maybe they have more new ideas for. That . . . that doesn't mean there won't be any more Strong Bad emails, does it? Does it?!?!?!?!!!??
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Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Super Bowl Pick

It's got to be the Steelers, right?

I just feel like the Cardinals don't have that much going for them. Their assets are: Larry Fitzjerry,* that they're better than people thought they were on defense and in their run game, and crazy-underdog-voodoo-magic. Now, the second one should be canceled out by the formidable Steelers defense, which should also help neutralize Larry Fitzjerry. If the Steelers completely neutralize the Cardinals' still-not-that-great running game, then they can focus their attention on Larry. Or maybe they can just blitz the heck out of Kurt Warner so the ball never gets to Larry--that's probably more managable.

Then there's the crazy-underdog-voodoo-magic. It has worked so far, carrying the Cardinals through three whole games. But it's got to run out sometime. That's why it's crazy and magic, because that sort of thing--while nice to get--can't last forever.

Admittedly, I think I'm still annoyed with the Cardinals not so much for their regular season record (9-7, which is by definition mediocre) as for the fact that they made idiots out of themselves in some of those losses. I like underdogs, I do, but I just can't root for a team I watched lie down and allow themselves to be trampled 47-7 by the Patriots. (I watched that game because the channel that was supposedly showing a better game in that time slot actually showed an infomercial instead. Oh, I was mad.)

Lots of sports writers seem to feel the same way about the Cardinals. I read a story yesterday that argued that if the Cardinals win the Super Bowl, it will make the BCS look like a good system in comparison. [ETA: And here's a better story I just found on SI that makes the same point.] I think that's taking it too far--the best thing about a playoff is that even if it doesn't award the "best" team (see: last year's Patriots were better than the Giants, right?), it at least rewards a team based on objective criteria. One thing the NFL could do, though, is instead of giving conference champions the top four seeds and giving the two best wild cards the five and six seeds, just let in those same four champions and wild cards, but seed them by winning percentage. The Cardinals were helped by their home field advantage against Atlanta and Philadelphia, two teams that performed better than they did in the regular season. In the free-seeding approach, they wouldn't have had any home games, as befits the team with the worst record. Anyway, to return to the point . . . .

Bottom line: the Steelers are the better team. Sometimes the better team doesn't win, but since they haven't for the last three Cardinals games, and because the Steelers are by far the better team, I think they will today. And since Neal informs me that I should have a score prediction, I'm going to say . . . Steelers 24, Cardinals 14.

*I know his name isn't actually Larry Fitzjerry. I just enjoy calling him that. Try it, it's fun!
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