Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Underappreciated movies

Gordon's mad love for Zero Effect got me thinking about movies that don't get the love. I'm talking about movies that either didn't do well at the box office, didn't get Golden Globes or Academy Awards, and even seem to be forgotten after their initial release. I like a lot of movies that I think are deserving of wider recognition and should have won some awards of at least get mentioned on "best-of" lists. I often wonder why they don't. So here, in no particular order, are underappreciated movies that you should check out. Because I said so!

1. Fight Club (1999). Okay, this may be cheating a little, as this movie was plenty controversial when it came out and got a lot of press. However, it didn't win any awards, even though it should have, and it doesn't seem to come up much these days. I love this movie. The three leads - Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter - have never been better, and the story - even if you know the twist - is powerful and gripping and never compromises. I love movies that allow the story to resolve itself logically, and Fight Club never backs off even at the end. The reason for its greatness, I think, is because it doesn't give us easy answers, and it forces us to consider things we'd rather not. That's why it didn't win any awards, either. But it should still get the love!

2. Zero Effect (1998). Since this movie prompted this post, I should mention it. This movie had franchise written all over it, but it was far too smart for the mouth-breathing troglodytes who go see Sin City with their kids in strollers. Bill Pullman as Daryl Zero, the world's most private private investigator, and Ben Stiller as his Watson, Steve Arlo, are both brilliant in their roles. I have mentioned before that Stiller is a fine actor who is wasting his talent, but here he gets a perfect character and a great script to work with, and he makes it shine. Pullman, another underrated actor, is fantastic as Zero, who never wants to leave his apartment and relies on Arlo to track down facts while he interprets them. Ryan O'Neal is perfectly smarmy as the businessman who hires Zero but has plenty of secrets, and a good chunk of the movie is filmed in Portland, so that's an added bonus. Apparently the television show Monk was loosely based on this movie. And that's a freakin' hit. There's no justice.

3. Fearless (1993). Fearless is Peter Weir's last great movie, although he's done some decent stuff since then. Watching this movie is an astonishing experience, from the beautifully recreated airplane crash at the beginning, to Jeff Bridges and Rosie Perez's drive in the Volvo, to Bridges popping strawberries even though he's allergic to them. Bridges survives the plane crash and becomes, well, fearless. He is disconnected from his wife, played wonderfully by Isabella Rossolini, and finds that he is drawn to Perez, another survivor, but one who lost her baby boy in the crash and is wracked with guilt, something her husband, played by John Turturro, can't understand. Bridges makes it his mission in life to save Perez from her guilt, and as he grows further away from his wife, Rossolini gives a stronger and stronger performance. It's a brilliant movie that won nothing (Perez was nominated for Best Supporting Actress) and rarely gets its due. You can't go wrong if you want to see a bracing portrait of people caught in a situation that nobody has much experience with.

4. Dark City (1998). Alex Proyas made The Crow, another great movie (but not on this list, because I think it's more appreciated than this is), then he made this, then he made ... I, Robot. Oh well - two out of three isn't bad. This is an amazing science-fiction film, with Rufus Sewell (whatever happened to him?) as John Murdoch, who wakes up one night with amnesia and a dead hooker in his hotel room. He quickly learns that he's being experimented on by aliens who want to discover more about the human soul, and things get messier from there. This features great performances all around, from Sewell to Jennifer Connelly as his wife, William Hurt as the police inspector who is investigating the case but also wants to find out why a colleague of his has gone insane, and Kiefer Sutherland doing his best Peter Lorre impersonation. It's a moody, noir-ish kind of movie, and it has a creepy kid with a knife. You really can't go wrong with a creepy kid with a knife! Appreciated by the nerdy sci-fi set, maybe, but sadly not by the rest of the world, even though it examines topics such as what love is and what makes us human. And things blow up!

5. Election (1999). When I hear people talk about Alexander Payne, they talk about Citizen Ruth, his savage satire of both sides of the abortion debate, or About Schmidt, in which Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates get busy in a hot tub. Eeewwww! Both are good movies, but neither can hold a candle to this, a nasty satire of politics set in high school. Matthew Broderick is a schlub who matches wits with Reese Witherspoon, whose Oscar this year may have been for this role (I think the Academy likes to do that a lot). Witherspoon is truly awesome in the role of Tracy Flick, mainly because we can all remember a student like her from our high school days. Chris Klein (!) is very good (!!) as the dumb jock (oh, no wonder) who opposes her in the race for student body president. He's the only decent one around, it appears, as Witherspoon and Broderick up the ante of evil at every turn. This got nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar, which is where you can usually find the best movies of the year, but when About Schmidt came out, everyone seemed to forget this. Which is a shame.

6. Lone Star (1996). John Sayles is famous for a lot of things (I once saw one of his plays). Among other things, he wrote the screenplay for Pirahna so he could finance his own movies, and he's written and directed most of his movies all by himself since then. He's hard to pin down - he made The Brother from Another Planet, Matewan, Eight Men Out, The Secret of Roan Inish (another very good movie), Men With Guns (which is mostly in Spanish), and Limbo, among others. Lone Star might be his best - it's a beautiful story about a border town in Texas, and as with many of Sayles' movies, the many characters and their stories overlap with each other. Immigration, racism, progress, assimilation, family ties, violence - all are tackled, and examined without giving short shrift to any and without saying any of them are easy to deal with. The main story deals with Chris Cooper as the town's sheriff investigating the 40-year-old murder of Kris Kristofferson, the town's sheriff back in the bad old days. Cooper's father, played by Matthew McConaughey before he felt the need to take his shirt off in every movie, may have killed him, but the townspeople loved Buddy Deeds (McConaughey), so they don't want to talk. It's a marvelous movie with a wonderful love story (Cooper and Elizabeth Peña, whose mother disapproves of Cooper because he's white), and it always forces you to look at the characters in new ways. It also got an Oscar nomination, also for Best Screenplay. See what I mean about the best movies showing up in that category?

7. The Princess and the Warrior (2000). I have mentioned this movie before, but it's worth mentioning again. This is Tom Tykwer's follow-up to Run Lola Run, and while not as brash or frenetic as that movie, this one (also starring Franka Potente) is much more interesting because of what the characters go through. Potente falls for a bad man, but as we get to know the two, we wonder exactly what is "bad" and "good." It's an interesting movie because there's a palpable sexual tension between the two leads, but Tykwer is much more interested in looking at spiritual love rather than physical love. This slows the movie down a bit, but viewers who want to experience a real relationship should remain patient, because it all comes together satisfyingly.

8. Once Were Warriors (1994). If you're looking for a light-hearted romp, avoid this movie like the plague. This is one of the more unsettling movies you can watch, but that doesn't detract from its utter brilliance. It's the story of a Maori family with, to put it mildly, issues. Rena Owen, who plays the mother, is trying to keep her kids safe and away from all the problems kids face, as well as dealing with the racism that Maoris face in New Zealand. Temuera Morrison, who plays her husband, is a brutal drunk who, when he's sober, is devoted to his wife and kids. Unfortunately, he's rarely sober. This is one of the most powerful movies you will ever see, and it's mostly because of the performances of Owen and Morrison, although all the actors in the family are excellent. The director, Lee Tamahori, came to America and has made thrillers or action movies (Mulholland Falls, The Edge, Along Came A Spider, Die Another Day, xXx: State of the Union), but I doubt he'll ever approach making something as good as this again. He was arrested in January for seeking sex with an undercover police officer while dressed in drag, so he might not be making too many movies in the future. Whatever troubles him, there's no denying that this is a brilliant film.

9. Unbreakable (2000). Shyamalan may be known for The Sixth Sense, but this, his follow-up, is better. Its "twist" doesn't have the same impact, but it doesn't need the same impact, because it's not really about that. This is much more about Bruce Willis becoming a hero and what makes a man do heroic things and how he can overcome adversity. It's also about a man trying to recover his family, because they don't see him as a hero anymore. It's a complex picture, and one of the reasons why I think it doesn't get recognized like it should is because Shyamalan tells the story through the lens of comic books - Samuel L. Jackson's character collects them and discusses their myth-making ability, something "regular" people aren't ready to deal with yet (I hope the continual success of movies based on comic books will change that). This is a fascinating movie about good and evil, and why people commit horrible acts, and it remains Shyamalan's best film (okay, I haven't seen his pre-Sixth Sense stuff, but I can't imagine it's better).

10. Before the Rain (1994). For some unknown reason, this movie has yet to come out on DVD, which is a shame. It's a haunting movie about the problems in Macedonia during the 1990s, and even though that might date it, it's also a movie about war and how it destroys people, but not necessarily in the way you think, and also about how we never learn anything even though we think we do. It's told as three different stories, two in Macedonia, and one in London (with a Macedonian photographer). Milcho Manchevski, the director, plays time tricks with us, so that we are never sure when something is happening, but in the end, it becomes clearer and we understand why he did it the way he did. This movie stars the brilliant Katrin Cartlidge, who died a few years ago much too soon. Some cable channel should do a Cartlidge retrospective - this movie, Naked, Breaking the Waves, Career Girls, Topsy-Turvy, From Hell - she didn't make fun movies, but she sure made excellent ones!

11. A Pure Formality (1994). Krys and I rented this a while back (like, in '96 or '97) and when it was over, I turned to Krys and said, "I can't believe how much I loved that movie." This was astonishing, because usually, when I see a movie for the first time on the television, it doesn't blow me away. But this movie mesmerized me. Since then, two of my friends have seen it, and they liked it but weren't enthralled by it, so your taste may vary. It stars Gérard Depardieu and Roman Polanski (yes, that Roman Polanski) and very few other people. Those two dominate the screen, and it's a good thing, because almost the entire movie takes place in a police station, in an interview room. Depardieu is a writer who has become reclusive, and one night he's hauled into the police station where Polanski interviews him about a corpse they found. Depardieu has no idea what he's talking about, and the conversation between the two men slowly reveals the mystery. This is one of those "twist" movies, yes, but it's brilliantly done and the twist is fascinating and doesn't ruin the movie when you see it a second time (which is what a good "twist" does - makes the movie even more enjoyable). A very underappreciated gem.

12. Heathers (1989). I don't know - is Heathers underappreciated? If it is, it shouldn't be. Teen angst has never been skewered as sublimely as Michael Lehmann (who went on to direct Hudson Hawk and 40 Days and 40 Nights, among others) and Daniel Waters did in this movie. Everyone is perfectly cast, too - Christian Slater can use that faux-Nicholson thing he does to good effect, Winona Ryder is brilliant, and I'm not even sure if Shannon Doherty is acting or just being herself. This movie ripped popularity cliques, teen suicide, teenage rebellion, jocks, hippies - everyone in the high school world, really. Let's all shout: "I love my dead gay son!" Brilliant. Again, I'm not sure if it's underappreciated, but it should be on a short list of great movies of the 1980s.

13. The Fisher King (1991). Terry Gilliam rightly gets credit for Time Bandits, Brazil, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but for my money, The Fisher King is the best of the lot. This movie moves me in so many ways it's almost painful to watch it. We get Jeff Bridges (hasn't he won an Oscar yet?) and Mercedes Ruehl (who did win an Oscar for this movie) and Robin Williams (who was nominated) and Amanda Plummer, all of whom give career performances. The two love stories (between Bridges and Ruehl, and between Williams and Plummer) are both much better and more real than almost anything you have ever seen on screen, and both Williams and Bridges have to make spiritual journeys to become full-fledged human beings, and they both must overcome horrible obstacles to do so. It's amazing that Gilliam managed to pack so much into this movie and does it so well. It's funny, it's sad, it's adventurous, it's beautiful, it's scary, and it's powerful. Man, Gilliam got it right with this!

14. Grand Canyon (1991). Lawrence Kasdan brought us The Big Chill, but I've never seen that, so I can't speak to that. I like Kasdan a lot, and this movie is fantastic, with a huge cast all intersecting somewhat randomly in Los Angeles. It's a story about race that is more subtle than Crash, it's a love story between two mature adults (Danny Glover and Alfre Woodard), it's a story about empty nest syndrome (Mary McDonnell is upset because her husband, Kevin Kline, is drifting away from her and her son is growing up), it's a story about violence in the movies and why people like it so much when real violence is so horrific (Steve Martin is a producer of violent movies who gets shot and has an epiphany). This is a powerful, uplifting movie about people and how we can all get along, if we only try a little. It was nominated for an Oscar for - wait for it! - Best Screenplay. Imagine that.

15. Bowfinger (1999). Movies making fun of Hollywood better be good, because it's so easy to make fun of Hollywood that we can do it! Luckily, Frank Oz gives us Bobby Bowfinger, wonderfully played by Steve Martin, a hack director with no money who comes up with a plan to film action star Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) secretly and then get his approval later. For the closeups, he stumbles across Kit's brother (also played by Murphy), a bumbling fool with bad vision. The movie they make, "Chubby Rain," is funny enough, but Kit Ramsey is a member of a strange church that couldn't possibly remind anyone of Scientology, and Terence Stamp plays his mentor brilliantly. Heather Graham is the "dumb blonde" who turns out to be not quite as dumb as everyone thinks. This is a wild movie that is fluff, sure, but very well-made fluff. I have mentioned before that Murphy deserved an Oscar nomination for his stunning dual role, but because it's a goofy comedy, the Academy ignored it.

Those are just 15 examples off the top of my head. I'm sure there are more (The Spanish Prisoner! The Rapture!), but I think I'll rein it in. If you're looking for movies that are under the radar, aren't huge blockbusters that are, let's face it, crap, and were criminally overlooked by the Academy in favor of junk like Forrest Gump, check these out. Anyone got any others?



Picture Day chronicles the beginning of our time in Portland

In September 1993 we arrived in Portland after our cross-country trip. We had little money, no job prospects, and no place to live. Excellent! We stayed at a campsite in Battleground, Washington, while we scoured the city looking for a place to live and a place to work. That's the problem - you can't get a job without an address, and you can't usually get an address without employment. We finally found a nice landlady who trusted that we would soon be gainfully employed and let us an apartment. That helped on the job front. I got a job as a mail courier, which was a pretty good job even though I had to use my own car, which I soon totaled. The next car I bought I beat to hell, and it was a lemon anyway. So that wasn't fun. But the job was kind of cool - I met a lot of neat people, learned the area very well, saw a lot of the area, and didn't have a boss looming over me all the time. Krys, meanwhile, worked for a temp agency for a while before she got into the mortgage business, from which she is still trying to escape.

We did a lot of exploring in those heady days. We had a television but no cable, and we had very little furniture, and our apartment was wee, so there wasn't much point in staying indoors. I wouldn't give up my amenities for anything, but it was fun living like that for a few months. So we wandered around town, and I took pictures. You will see why I love the city:

This first picture is of part of downtown taken from the waterfront park. In the 1970s the City ripped out the freeway that ran along the west side of the river and moved it to the Eastside to make room for the park. The people on the eastern shore weren't terribly happy, but it's just one of those amazing, progressive things that Portland once did. Can you imagine a city moving a freeway to build a park? Anyway, that's the KOIN tower looming in the background, where a few years later, while I was working not far away, some guy went into the lobby and took a bunch of people hostages. In the foreground is the World Trade Center. I'm serious. The terrorists can't keep us down!

This is a picture of a lamppost. Ooooo! We were wandering around the old part of town, right near the river on the west side, and I thought this lamppost - at the corner of Southwest First Avenue and Ankeny Street - was neat. As you may have guessed, I'm a sucker for olde-timey-type stuff.

Along First Avenue are a lot of old buildings. This one houses part of the Saturday Market, a long-standing Portland weekend tradition. There was once an advertising museum inside, but it moved. We visited it - it's pretty cool.

Just outside of downtown is the Rose Test Garden, where they grow roses. I know, shocking. It offers very nice views of downtown, including this one:

The tall building in the middle is one of the two tallest buildings in Oregon. It's known locally as the Big Pink because, well, it's pink. It has nice, fast elevators, too. And a restaurant used to exist at the top, but it closed. We ate there once. Pretty good food, excellent view.

Here's another view of the city from the Rose Garden. The building on the extreme right is the other tallest building in Portland

So those are the first pictures of Portland we took. Is it any wonder we loved living there?

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The awesomest movie EVER is apparently getting a bit awesomer

According to the lead story of this section, the greatest movie to ever see the light of day is getting re-shoots done to make it - dare I say it? - even greater!

Yes, Samuel L. Jackson's mega-epic, Snakes On A Plane, has generated so much buzz that the filmmakers decided to add (wait for it) "gore, nudity, more snakes" (can you ever have too many?) and a line that was suggested by a fan that I'm stunned wasn't already in it (and let's all imagine Jules Winnfield doing the line, shall we?):

"I want these motherfucking snakes off the motherfucking plane."

Oh sweet Jeebus. This will be the greatest movie ever. Actually, it already is.

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Just one today! That's how little time I have!

Woody! points us to the Apple employee who got fired for reading a poem at the company talent show. At least that's what he says. Follow the link and play the video. The poem is frickin' hilarious. And if that is the reason he got fired (we have only his word), then Apple is a sad company.

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Totally random Roman history!

When attending a morning sacrifice before the victim was killed, Galba was now repeatedly warned by a soothsayer to expect danger - murderers were about. Soon afterwards news came that Otho had seized the Guards' Camp. Though urged to hurry there in person, because his rank and presence could carry the day, Galba stayed where he was, bent on rallying to his standard the legionaries scattered throughout the city. He did, indeed, put on a linen corselet, but remarked that it would afford small protection against so many swords. Meanwhile, some of his supporters rashly assured him that the affair was over and the rebels suppressed - their troops were on the way to surrender and offer their congratulations, ready to obey all his orders. Galba went forward to meet them in the utmost confidence. When a soldier claimed with pride to have killed Otho, he snapped: 'On whose authority?' and hurried on to the Forum. There a party of cavalrymen, clattering through the city streets and dispersing the mob, caught sight of him from a distance. These were his appointed assassins. They reined in for a moment, then charged at him; his followers abandoned him, and he was butchered.

So ended Servius Sulpicius Galba, who ruled Rome as emperor for seven months. He succeeded Nero after Rome finally wised up and dispatched that crazy guy, but Galba was not the answer. He died in January in AD 69, "the year of four emperors," when Rome was wracked by civil war. He was succeeded by Otho, who was succeeded by Vitellius, who was succeeded by Vespasian, who finally restored order to the empire. Good job, Vespasian!

This is from Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars. Interesting book. I also recently bought 69 A.D.: The Year of Four Emperors by Gwyn Morgan, who tells us that Galba's head was cut off and brought to Otho while his body was left in the middle of the Forum. Those Romans knew how to perform a coup!

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Picture Day is just like Rice-A-Roni!¹

When we left Las Vegas at the end of August 1993, we continued heading west into California. The first place we stopped was Bakersfield, about which the less said the better. I'm sorry, Bakersfieldians, put your town was unkind to us. It was ugly and dusty and hot, and the camp site was evil. It looked pleasant enough, and it was completely empty, and we set up under a nice big tree. Then the camp site administrator came over and told us we had to move because the site we had chosen was reserved. Reserved for whom, we wondered aloud, noting that it was after six o'clock in the evening and nobody was around. He told us that people from L.A. (stupid Angelenos!) reserve the sites for a week around Labor Day but don't show up until that weekend. We said that we were just staying the night and would be gone very early in the morning, and the people from L.A. weren't showing up that night. He said it didn't matter. So we had to move. Stupid camp site ranger guy! Then, the bathroom was filled with spiders. Filled. It was like a horror movie. Krys has a huge spider phobia, so she didn't want to shower, and even though I think spiders are cool, it really freaked me out. Horrible. So we fled Bakersfield and drove to Interstate-5, turned north, and drove through a ridiculously boring stretch of California. Seriously - those readers who have driven that stretch (we've done it twice) will know how amazingly boring it is. Then we reached San Francisco, where we stayed with an old college friend of my mom's, so that was great. A real house! With a pool!

We went into San Francisco, which is a marvelous city, although it's far too expensive for us to ever live there. We spent a very nice day there. It's cool.

First we have a very nice quintessential Frisco view. That's Golden Gate Bridge in fog. Just perfect.

This is Alcatraz. We didn't go out and tour it. I don't know why - maybe we didn't have time, maybe they weren't running that day. Beats me. It's still a neat place.

This is the tower on Nob Hill. I can't remember the name of it. Can anyone help me?

Since we were in San Francisco, we had to go through Chinatown. So we took some pictures. I just wonder what the difference between a regular pharmacy and a Mandarin pharmacy is.

It's very hilly in San Francisco. I just wanted to prove it with this picture. In case you didn't believe it.

Finally, it's a cable car. Riding the cars is pretty fun, and when it reaches the end of the line, they turn it manually. As you can see, it draws quite a crowd.

So that's San Francisco. A very nice city. We headed north after this, and a few days later, we reached Portland. That's where we will be next week!

¹ Because we're in San Francisco. Get it? Get it? Oh, never mind. Sheesh. You people.

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V For Vendetta review

I didn't post pictures yesterday because Blogger was acting up (again!) and I was posting a massive review of V For Vendetta, which I saw on Sunday. If you're interested, go read it here. I should warn you - it has many spoilers, so if you want to go see the movie, you should probably not read it. However, I would recommend you go see the movie. It's excellent. Really. Brilliant. Best movie I've seen in a long time.

Pictures (I hope) today.

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21 March 1152

The annulment of the marriage of Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine becomes final.

Eleanor, the richest woman in Europe and one of the most remarkable figures in European history, had married the king in 1137 when she was fifteen. She went on crusade with him, but failed to produce a male heir and was growing bored with her royal husband. Louis wanted a son, so on this day, his annulment, based on consanguinity (the default excuse for annulment back in the day) became final. He did get his son, but Eleanor went off and married Henry of Anjou, almost ten years her junior, and three months after the wedding, bore him a son. Henry, of course, shortly thereafter inherited the throne of England as Henry II, and between his lands and Eleanor's, he became the most powerful monarch in Europe. This annulment and subsequent marriage meant English kings for centuries had land claims in France, and led to lots and lots of wars.

Eleanor is a fascinating person. She outlived her husband and a few of her sons, dying early in the thirteenth century, well past 80. And then Kate Hepburn played her in the movie.

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Odd flotsam and jetsam

In the absence of links this week, I'd like to offer up some strange things from around my world. Because I can!

A guy sent me an e-mail asking me to promote his blog. He was doing it because he reads Comics Should Be Good, but I thought I'd promote it here, as well. It's actually pretty funny: Marmaduke Can Vote, a blog at which he rewrites Marmaduke comic panels to make them political. Go check it out if you have the time.

I also got an e-mail from a Burgas in England who Googled his name and found my blog. Hi, Richard. "Burgas" is a somewhat unusual name, so it's interesting to hear from one that is probably not related to me, except perhaps in some vague tangential sense (I don't know - maybe we're closely related!).

I was out and about yesterday and saw this car in a parking lot. If your eyes bleed, remember, I saw it live:

The front license plate read "Because I'm a Princess, that's why". Sigh. Just another person who will be put in the camps when I'm dictator.

This past week we had a new sink installed. Behold its excellence!

Smokey saw the sink and proclaimed it good.

And then, because he drank the forbidden water, he was possessed by Satan!

Strange things are afoot right outside our door, as well. The wind has been swirling the leaves into very cool fractal-type patterns:

I was cleaning the litter boxes, and I went around to the side of the house to wash them out with the hose. Inexplicably, someone had left a bicycle propped up against my house:

I have no idea what to do with it. I suppose I could ask a few neighbors if they know whose it is, but other than that, I have no idea. I'm still mulling it over. Anyone want a bike? You'll have to pay for shipping, but otherwise, it's free!

My cousin Kim has been doing some modeling, apparently. She's been in at least two different magazines. In these first two, I love how bored she looks. It's like she's been a supermodel for years!
Kim 1
Kim 2
Kim 3
I don't know what they did to her eyelashes in the last one but you can find it here, along with some other models. I'm just glad they didn't put her in the clothes the first model on the page is wearing, because you shouldn't see your cousin dressed like that! It's icky. Good for you, Kim, if you're reading.

I got a pretty good fortune the last time we got Chinese food:
I hope you can read it, because it's my kind of fortune! It's not the best one I ever got, which was, and I'm not kidding, "You are going to get some new clothes." I loved that fortune. Concise, to the point, realistic. I kept it for years but lost it somewhere. Oh well.

Finally, I found my favorite business card not long ago. I had lost it for a while. I can't even remember where I got it, but it's brilliant. When I am important enough to have a business card, it will look something like this:

Now that's the kind of guy you want at your next party!

I'll try to provide many and sundry links next weekend. We'll see how the week goes and how busy I am. As the kids get bigger and less inclined to lie still while I surf the 'net (that Norah - growing up like that!), I can't do it as often because I need to keep an eye on them. Darned kids!

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19 March 1314

Jacques de Molay is burned at the stake.

Good ol' Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Templars. In 1307, King Philip of France decided he wanted the Templars' vast wealth that was stored on French territory, so he suppressed the Order and came up with a bunch of charges against them, which may or may not be true. Molay tried to defend himself in front of the Pope, who was technically the Templar's liege lord and the only one who could condemn him, but Philip, whose puppet Clement V was, convoked a royal council and sentenced Molay to be burnt.

Molay, of course, cursed both Philip and the Pope, and within the month, Clement was dead, and six months later, Philip, still relatively young, was also dead. Good job, Jacques! And, of course, the Templars entered into legend and got wrapped up in the Holy Grail mystery that Dan Brown has made so much money off of.

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18 March 1890

Otto von Bismarck forced to resign as Germany's chancellor.

Lots of interesting stuff today - the death of Ivan the Terrible, the destruction of the Paris Commune - but this might be the most significant event. Bismarck had been the virtual ruler of first Prussia and then, from 1871, a united Germany for 28 years, but he had a lot of enemies, especially among Germany's liberals and young'uns. In 1888 Prince Wilhelm became Kaiser Wilhelm II, and he didn't like Bismarck either - partly because he felt that Bismarck was holding him back from becoming a truly great leader. Wilhelm, a bit of a wuss, didn't fire Bismarck, but worked against him for two years until this date, when the old Iron Chancellor finally quit. Interestingly enough, the "liberal" Wilhelm immediately began a long process of belligerence that led to a world war that Bismarck almost certainly would have done anything he could to avert. Bismarck led his country into plenty of wars - with Denmark, with Austria, with France - but only when he was positive they would win. World War I, despite Wilhelm's confidence, was a daunting task, and Bismarck probably would have left Austria to its fate.

Bismarck is a fascinating dude. Edward Crankshaw's nice biography is a very good read, if you're interested in him.

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Daughter pictures!

I just posted a bunch of pictures of Mia and Norah from the past month or so. Go check them out. You must bow down to the cuteness!




flirt (flûrt) v. flirted, flirting, flirts. -intr. 1. To amuse oneself in playful amorousness; play mockingly at courtship. (The New College Edition of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1975)

I was thinking about flirting earlier this week. Never you mind why - I'll get to that! Anyway, I was thinking about flirting and what people used to say about me. They might still say it, I don't know, but they used to say I was a tremendous flirt.

This bothered more than I let on, mainly because I was married and didn't want people to think I was looking for something else. I don't really care what people think of me all that much, but everyone does to a certain extent, and it bothered me when people thought I was out there flirting with every woman I met while my poor wife was oblivious to my raffish ways. Krys didn't care anyway - when people told her I flirted, she said something to the effect of "I know, but who cares?" and we moved on. But still.

Another reason why I didn't like people saying that about me was that I didn't think I was flirting. I have always been more comfortable talking to women than men - I'm not entirely sure why, and I have plenty of male friends with whom I love conversing, but for some reason, I like talking to women more. It's strange. When I talk to women, I like to think I do it as a person-to-person kind of thing, instead of man-looking-for-a-conquest kind of thing. In the past twelve years or so, this is because I'm madly in love with my wife, but even before I met her, I was good at talking to women, and I think it's because I didn't talk as a prelude to trying to get them into bed. Unlike Harry Burns, I fully believe men and women can be good friends, because I like to give men more credit for more control over their libidos than other men are, I guess. I have many female friends, and even those I met before I was married, I rarely (if ever) thought of putting the moves on them. Not that they're not attractive and fun, but it's not something I think about when I meet a woman.

As you might guess from that sentence, I've never been much of a ladies' man, which might explain why I'm good at talking to women or, if you must, flirting with them. Even back in the day when I first got interested in chicks, I was terrified of rejection. Therefore, even when I was interested in a girl, it took me forever to get up the nerve to ask her out. So I would just talk to them, sometimes endlessly, until I was comfortable enough to make a move. I have never simply gone up to a girl and chat her up with the expressed goal of getting a date or something romantic. I just don't have the nerve. So that might explain why I'm good at "flirting" - talking to girls, in my definition. I talk to them as people, without guile, and I think they recognize that I'm not interested in them sexually - first, like I said, because I'm happily married, but also because even if I weren't, I would be too scared to be open about it.

Men are weird (as are women, to be sure, but differently). Men are taught, subtly, that any close contact with a woman eventually leads to sex. Movies tell us this, television shows tell us this, older liars who don't score with as many women as they say they do tell us this. I know plenty of men who have escaped this stereotype, but it's still pretty prevalent. As much as I like sex (who doesn't?), it's never been a driving force in how I approach women and form relationships. It bothers me when I see men and women in entertainment having sex just because they happen to be a man and woman. I have never met people like that (well, maybe I have, but I don't know about it), and it annoys me, because I have been in situations where, afterward, I think that I could have gotten laid if I wanted to - and this is even after I married Krys. But I'm just not interested in that. I have too much respect for my marriage and, as I've said, it's not something I look for. When I see men and women on television and in movies "succumbing to temptation," I recognize that it's simply for dramatic purposes, but it still pisses me off.

That's why it bugs me when people think I flirt. I take relationships very seriously, and that not only means my marriage, but relationships with women I consider friends and with whom I would never consider anything else. It seems horribly disrespectful to approach women as sexual conquests and everything you say or do becomes a means to that end. Maybe that makes me a wuss, but I don't care. Flirting might be harmless, and to a large extent I think it is, but it still has this undercurrent of sexuality. Krys has said she doesn't mind if I flirt, although I'm sure she would get peeved if I did it while we were out together somewhere and I ignored her, and I feel the same way. But we both recognize that we get along well with the opposite sex, and although I don't know if women feel the same way about talking to men - with an eye toward getting that person into bed - I wonder if the women I talk to are thinking that I'm flirting with them in order to score with them. Again, that bugs me. It gets worse when you consider the profession I've been in. High school teachers have to be so careful with what they say, and I think I've done a good job at reining in my natural friendliness with my students. I don't think it's a radical thing to say that girls mature faster than boys, and many of my female students were much more willing to talk than the boys were. So while I talked to the boys, I often became closer to the girls, and still stay in touch with a few. The appearance of impropriety is so dangerous in high school, so I was very conscious of how I acted. It was difficult, however, because I am so friendly. These students (boy or girl) think that friendliness makes you "friends," so when you have to be the teacher and do something they don't like, they feel that it's a betrayal of your "friendship." So that adds another layer of annoyance to what I consider my natural openness and friendliness.

The reason I thought of this is because of my haircut. The girl who cut my hair was very nice, and we talked about my kids, and I would not say I was flirting with her (others might, but that's their problem). I had, after all, just met her, and I still have that trepidation about talking to new people - I didn't talk much to the guy shaving me on Saturday, and when I did, I don't think it was flirtatious, either. However, she reminded me of the only person I am willing to admit flirting with over the past twelve years - since I met Krys. She was a girl who worked at the comic book store in Portland I used to visit, and she wasn't my type at all - she was tiny and gothic, with dyed black hair with blue streaks in it - but she was kind of cute and funny and she knew a lot about comics. We didn't have a lot in common, but I used to chat with her a lot when I bought comics, more so than a customer ought to when he's just buying books. One day I went home and told Krys, "I think I was flirting with the girl at the comic book store today." She just laughed (at least, that's how I remember it). Maybe she knew I'm too much of a wuss to do anything about it. Maybe she realized how much I love her. At least that's what I hope.

It depresses me that it appears our society cannot recognize that men and women can get along without sex entering the equation. I love my good female friends, just as I love my good male friends. Why do we have to be so obsessed with sex? I know I'm not perfect, but I like to think I am not a slobbering troglodyte who is picturing every woman I speak to naked. Well, I know I'm not, but why do so many people think that about all men? Is it experience? Beats me.

I don't know many women who read this blog (of my huge audience of ten, maybe three are women) but I wonder, you and you (and any of my friends who happen to stop by) - am I a flirt?

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Great songs, according to me (Part 19)

The last time I did one of these, my hard drive crashed. Was it trying to tell me something about my musical taste? Only it knows for sure!

As usual, you can check out the previous entries here, here, here, and here. If you're so inclined.

181. Fast Lane (by Urban Dance Squad on the album Mental Floss For The Globe, 1989): This is the best song of UDS' first album, and it's the kind of song that just grabs you and shakes you and doesn't let go. Scratchy guitars, scratchy beats, angry lyrics, and unlike a lot of UDS songs, it's comprehensible. It's about, obviously, living in the fast lane and the temptations of fame. Not the most original stuff, but it's still a kick-ass tune.

182. Faye Tucker (by Indigo Girls on the album Come On Now Social, 1999): From the moment Amy howls "On the night they killed Faye Tucker, I was gambling away my last dime," you know you're in for something special. Technically, this is the last track on what might be the Girls' finest album (there's a "hidden track" after it), and it's the perfect ending to a raw disc, as the song is full of pain and despair. The music is terrible (in a good way), too - portentous and uncomfortable, and it lurches along with pure force of will. It's an astonishing song, and it takes you out into the dark places and just leaves you there. Faye Tucker, by the way, was the first woman executed in Texas. Go, Governor George Bush!

183. Fearless (by Fish on the album Songs From The Mirror, 1993): Fish put out this album of cover songs in order to fulfill his contractual obligations and get away from his record label, I think. It's an uneven disc, but a few times, he takes songs and makes them his own and makes them great, like this old Pink Floyd tune (the original of which I've never heard). Fish is very good at singing slightly sentimental songs (phew!) and this certainly qualifies. He starts quietly and almost meekly, but builds slowly and although he never gets too loud, you can just feel the power in his voice. It's a nice song. I wonder what the Floyd version sounds like.

184. Feeding Frenzy (by Midnight Oil on the album Earth And Sun And Moon, 1993): Midnight Oil's finest album begins with this rough song and Peter growling "Well I'm as old as the hills and young as the day" while the boys carry him along. He gets more and more urgent as the song progresses, but he still sounds almost sad, which adds a nice poignancy to the tune. It's a good way to kick off the album, as it sets a nice tone, typical of Midnight Oil, of sadness over lack of respect for the past and a fear of the future. But they make the apocalypse sound so good!

185. Feels So Good (by Van Halen on the album OU812, 1988): No, it doesn't feature Diamond Dave screeching, or even Sammy screeching. No, it doesn't feature a true kick-ass guitar solo by Eddie. Yes, it's a (ugh!) ballad. But guess what? This song is awesome. It begins with that cool whatever-the-hell-is-making-that-noise (I'd guess synthesizer, but I could be wrong), and then Sammy launches in with that smooth, lying-on-the-beach-in-Cabo voice that can get scratchy at just the right time, and we're off! It's not the deepest song in the world, sure, but it just lifts you up and takes you away and you feel so much better after listening to it. And it does have a cool guitar solo, even if it doesn't kick your ass all over the place.

186. A Few Words For The Dead (by Marillion on the album Radiation, 1998): This songs ends this occasionally disappointing album, and it does so with verve and power. It starts almost inaudible, and Hogarth slowly and surely weaves a dark picture of a man (presumably) pushed to the edge, ready to commit violence, and then offers an alternative. It's a preachy and perhaps un-subtle tune, but Steve sells it with his lyrics blending with his voice blending with the triumphant music once he lets it fly. It's a great song, but the fact that it ends the album pushes it even higher.

187. Fields Of Joy (by Lenny Kravitz on the album Mama Said, 1991): Not the reprise, which is weird, but the first song on this excellent album. "Fields Of Joy" kicks off this disc with a bang, as Lenny falsettos the opening, with those trippy lyrics, and then blasts into the meat of the song, almost shrieking with what I presume is joy. The guitar solo that follows is a primal scream of intensity, and then the song calms back down for the end. It's a brilliant way to start, and leaves you a bit breathless.

188. The First Time (by U2 on the album Zooropa, 1993): A beautiful quiet song on a largely underrated and ignored album, "The First Time" is one of my favorite U2 songs. Bono tones down the bombast, Edge doesn't strum that guitar in the same way he does in a good three-quarters of U2 songs, and the song just takes you along serenely. It builds slowly in intensity but never overwhelms you, and when Bono gets to the part where his father left by the back door and threw away the key, and the piano gets a little more forceful, and you feel the freedom mixed with pain that the lyrics symbolize, you just know you've heard a great song.

189. Five Years (by David Bowie on the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1972): This is another song on Fish's album of covers (see above) and it's where I first heard it. I like both versions, but since Bowie came first, I'll give him the credit. The lyrics are kind of weird - the earth is dying, and we only have five years left. Of course the song will be sad, but it's also a bit triumphant - the narrator begins to understand how beautiful even the mundane is in life. Too bad it's too late, sucker! A nice, typical, early 1970s Bowie song. But it's better.

190. Five-O (by James on the album Laid, 1993): This is one of my absolutely favorite songs of all time. I love it so. It's also one of the creepiest songs, as we think it's a love song, then we think it might be just a wistful song about lost love, but then we realize it's really quite different. Another song that starts quietly and builds and builds (yes, I like those), Tim Booth draws us in with his weird voice and unsettling lyrics, and then he sings "I can be the man, I see in your eyes" and you think it's a pleasant love song. But it's not: he moves on and sings "If it lasts forever, hope I'm the first to die," which in my mind is perhaps the most evil lyric ever. It's not as horrible as you might think, as he is wondering "is the power of love worth the pain of loss?" He can't decide if he wants to take the chance, because it might hurt so much. The way Booth toys with us throughout the song is what makes this brilliant. A great, great song by an excellent band on a very good album.

All-righty-o, another ten songs in the books! As always, criticism is certainly welcome. It's always interesting to hear what other people enjoy and why my tastes are awful!

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15 March 963

Basil II nominally becomes Byzantine Emperor.

Sure, it's the Ides of March, but Basil II is much cooler than Julius Caesar! Who the heck is Basil II? I'm so glad you asked. Basil, known as "the Bulgar-Slayer" because he slew many Bulgars,¹ was five years old today when his father, Romanus II, died and he became titular emperor. When he was 18 he reached his majority and, after a power struggle, became the greatest emperor at least since Justinian (527-565) and possibly since Constantine (306-337). He was ugly and coarse, with no interest in learning, and apparently died a virgin, which is kind of weird. But he was a great general. He came to the throne at a time in Byzantine history when it appeared the apogee of the empire had come and gone, but he enlarged its territory greatly, mainly at the expense of the Bulgars, who had vexed the Greeks before. Under their ruler Samuel, they fought long and hard against Basil. Finally, in 1014, Basil destroyed the Bulgarian army. He celebrated his victory in brutal fashion - he had his captives blinded and sent them back to Samuel with guides whom he only blinded in one eye. He was a hell of a lot nicer once he had subjugated the territory, however.

Basil also helped bring Christianity to Russia, as he made an alliance with Vladimir, the prince of Kiev, in 988, offering his sister to the prince in marriage only if Vladimir became a Christian. So he wasn't all bad!

Basil died in 1025. The Byzantine Empire never achieved the greatness it did under him, although there were some strong emperors.

¹ That has to be one of the top ten nicknames of all time, doesn't it?

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What I've been reading

It's been a long time since I read a book. I have been trying to catch up on my magazine reading, so I stopped reading books for a bit. Then, one day, I decided to pick up the next book on my list. I know you don't care, but I just thought I'd let you know. So let's move on!

Underground London: Travels Beneath the City Streets by Stephen Smith
393 pages, 2004, Abacus Books

One of the reasons why I need to get out of Phoenix is its lack of history. As you know, I love history, and living in a place that is only 150 years old, and really only 50 or so years old (if you count from the time when it became tolerable to live here), is just not my thing. I know there is history everywhere, but the kind that Phoenix has is just not interesting.

Along with history, I'm fascinated by the underground. When we visited Seattle once, we took the underground tour, and I loved it. The idea that cities, as they exist today, are simply built on the various layers of the previous towns is a wonderful idea, and I would love to go underground in cities around the world and check them out. Recently the History Channel has a show on the New York subway, and of course I watched, because it's cool. Which brings me to this book.

Smith has written a book that takes us into the underground part of London, a city that cries out for this kind of research if any does. London has been rebuilt so many times that it has swallowed up rivers and walls and looks nothing like the place it did originally. Smith structures the book like a standard history, beginning in Antiquity and bringing us up to the Cold War, and it works. He traces the flow of underground rivers, finds part of the Roman wall in a carpark, goes into the sewers (always charming), tries to avoid the plague pits where, presumably, the plague rests dormant, always ready to break out, and peeks into secret government meeting rooms. It's a fascinating and bizarre journey.

One of the early chapters, "Monster Soup: London's Lost Waters," is perhaps the best. In it Smith takes a standard walking tour (which you can apparently do in London) and discovers all the tributaries of the Thames that have been covered up over the centuries. He walks along the Fleet (or, at least, the path of the river) and learns the history of the waterway and the areas near its banks. The most fascinating thing about old cities is learning the antecedents of its names. Therefore we hear about Dead Dog Basin (pretty self-explanatory), but also something as seemingly mundane as "Fleet," which is Anglo-Saxon for "tidal inlet." Plenty of other word origins pop up throughout the book, and it makes the writing lively and grounded.

The whole book is lively and grounded. Smith writes with a pleasant informal style that easily mixes historical data with his meetings with the various underground denizens. Partly because of his subject matter and its obvious proximity to human waste, the book also brings historical figures to life more than a more highbrow book might. We learn about court cases from the 14th century in which one neighbor complains because another has emptied his overflowing "cloaca" into his yard. We learn that in his great diary, Samuel Pepys once recorded that he stepped on a turd in his basement. We learn that workers in the Tube call suicides "one-unders." We learn that Freddie Mercury was born in Zanzibar (well, I certainly didn't know that). All of this trivia makes the book much more engaging.

Smith walks around the city, bringing each layer to life. A parking garage has been built around a portion of the Roman wall, which blew my mind. In the U.S., and especially in the West, people are always tearing things down to build the new, but the British simply built their modern building around the old. I have some problems with preserving the past to the detriment of everything else, but, as in all things, there needs to be a balance. The Londoners, at least for this small section, have found that. He takes us to Westminster Abbey and Henry VIII's tennis courts. A tour of underground London would not be complete, of course, without a visit to the room under the Palace of Westminster where Guy Fawkes planned to blow up Parliament. Scientist have determined that Fawkes could have blown up most of Central London if he had managed to get away with it.

One the eerier parts of the book is when Smith discusses the Tube and its ghost stations. There are a lot of them, apparently, and some are used for maintenance supply stations, while others are used occasionally by film crews. The stations are obsolete, either because stations were built nearer to them or the buildings above simply fell out of use. Smith introduces us to Tube workers who patrol the underground at night, checking the rails and making sure everything is in working order. It has to be a creepy occupation, and Smith gives us some excellent portraits of exactly what kind of people do this sort of work. We meet Billy McKeown, whose job is to walk the line between 1 and 5 a.m., when the current is turned off and it's relatively safe. "Relatively," of course, because he does this in almost total darkness. Billy checks to make sure everything is working correctly, while others perform maintenance on the aesthetics of the Tube - getting rid of old posters, that sort of thing. These workers are completely unsung, but they, along with the sewer workers, perform functions that the rest of us take for granted, and Smith brings them to life.

There's a lot more to the book. Each chapter lets us in one another slice of hidden history and another interesting group of people who work on it. Smith tells us that the miners who lost their jobs in the recession of the 1980s and 1990s have found new work digging tunnels in the underground. He introduces us to the folk of Subterranea Britannica, who are obsessed with finding the secret government labyrinth underneath the city and therefore worship Duncan Campbell, who claims to have penetrated it. Fun stuff.

This is the kind of book that keeps you interested on each page - Smith just keeps piling tidbits on tidbits and tying everything together. He is clearly putting himself into the story, which is fine, because it's not supposed to be a highbrow history book. It's a neat book that illuminates a part of history we usually don't think about. It makes me want to tunnel down into the bowels of cities and see what I can find!

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12 March 1938; 13 March 1905

Hitler creates the Anschluss; Mata Hari makes her public debut.

14 March is a sucky day in history, so I'll try to make up from missing the past two days. On 13 March 1938, Hitler entered Austria after 5 years of trying to incorporate the country into his Reich. He had tried everything, but the Austrians had futzed around, and they were going to hold a plebiscite which might not have supported integration with Germany. The vote was going to be held on 13 March, so Hitler felt his hand was forced. He entered Austria with the excuse of "restoring order" in Austrian towns - order that had been upset by rioting Nazis. Two days later, on 14 March, he proclaimed that the two German states were one. And so his attempted bloodless conquest of Europe began. He did quite well for a while.

Meanwhile, on 13 March 1905, Margaretha Zella appeared on stage as "Mata Hari," an Indian girl raised in service of the god Shiva. She was a Dutch girl who had moved to Java early in life with a domineering husband whom she eventually divorced. When she moved back to Europe, she had no prospects, so she decided to take off her clothes for profit! She was good at it, too, touring Europe and taking numerous lovers. She became a spy during World War I, but the French became convinced she was a double agent and arrested her. After a sham trial, she was shot in 1917.

Okay, I lied - on 14 March 1492 Isabella of Castile ordered the expulsion of 150,000 Jews from the re-united Spain. And so a sub-section of society that made Muslim Spain the cultural capital of Europe was kicked out, and Spain entered a nice period of time they liked to call the Inquisition. Good job, Spain!

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Return of the Living Picture Day can mean only one thing - Viva Las Vegas!

Yes, my computer has pretty much recovered, things have been re-installed, and my scanner is happy to help me post pictures once more! Last time I mentioned that we spent the night at Lake Mead, and drove into Las Vegas for the evening just to check it out.

We were not impressed. I didn't really like Las Vegas - it's certainly good at what it does, and I don't object to it on any moral grounds - it's a modern-day Sodom! - but it was just too obnoxious. I'm certainly obnoxious, and I respect it, but Vegas needs to lighten up a bit. A few years later we went to Lake Tahoe and I played blackjack for hours - that was a much nicer spot, because the casinos weren't as aggressively in-your-face and there was plenty of other stuff to do. Las Vegas, despite its attempts to become more family-friendly, really only exists for two reasons: people can lose large amounts of money there and get married easily.

Still, it was interesting to visit once. I have no desire to ever go back there.

These are the fountains at Caesar's Palace. Caesar's is actually one of the classier joints along the Strip.

The Strip is one of those places where you think, "Things couldn't possibly get any more obnoxious than this!" And then you turn around ...

... and you see this. Sheesh.

Elvis is, of course, everywhere in Vegas. Krys sidled up to this one and I took her picture.

Check out the gams on that honey!

Like I said, each casino is more obnoxious than the last ...

... but a Paul Anka concert will help ease the pain!

When we visited, almost 13 years ago, Circus Circus was by far the most obnoxious. It has probably been outstripped by now, as casino owners try to out-tacky their peers!

That was our evening in Las Vegas. We had no money, so we didn't gamble. We just strolled around people-watching and enjoying the nice weather. And thanking all that's holy that we didn't live there.

Next week: San Francisco!

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Bestiality, Jon Stewart destroys America, evil Mark Trail, and furry crustaceans - the links will drive you mad!

Before we get to the magic and mystery that is This Week On The Internet, I thought I should tell you about what I did yesterday. Or, more accurately, what I had done to me. I went to the salon where Krys gets her hair cut and received a professional shave. I had been interested in getting one for a while, and Krys got me a gift certificate for Christmas, so I made an appointment. I have a pretty heavy beard, and hate shaving (which is why it's nice to have no job - less shaving!), so I figured it would be fun to try it.

I was disappointed.

The experience wasn't awful. The hot and cold towels were nice, and the lotions the shaving dude put on my face were nice, but the actual shaving (with a straight razor, of course) was a lot more painful than I thought it would be (it wasn't that painful, but it was more painful than when I do it at home) and the shave just wasn't that close. I thought I might be able to go a few extra days without shaving, but I think I'm going to have to break out the Mach 3 tomorrow, which is when I usually do. So it wasn't that great.

The salon I went to is part of this whole "male spa" trend (the Republic just had a big story about them, and the place I went is mentioned). I'm certainly not the most "manly" man in the joint, but I just don't understand the whole thing. I do love the guys in the article who don't want to be called a metrosexual - even as they're getting a manicure and a back wax. Hey, I get manicures and pedicures every once in a while - they feel great! - and I don't really care what people call me. Deal with it, guys - there's something a tad effete about manicures and exfoliating. It's okay!

I'm going back there today for a hair cut because Krys wants me to. When we lived in Portland, I went to the same salon she did because the woman who cut my hair was very cool. Since we've lived in this house I've been going to the barber shop at the big intersection near my house, where the old Russian couple from Khazakstan cuts it for 12 dollars. That's not good enough for my wife, apparently. We'll see if the cut I get today is decent. Maybe I'll start going there.

For now, let's get to the links!


Okay, maybe not. This is the first blog I came to. It has one entry - today's. Moving on!

Here's a blog about a wife of a police officer and mother of three. If that's your thing.

Funny pictures. I guess so. Some are.

This is a blog about a girl obsessed with riding her bike. Good for her!

And lastly we have a chronicle of a guy in Argentina. I'd love to go to Argentina. Just to visit, of course - if I lived there I'd probably get thrown out of a plane eventually.


There's a resolution in Missouri to make Christianity the official religion. Nice to see a bunch of Christian types come out of the woodwork to blast this. I found this at Donklephant.

T. links to this horrible story: A woman shoots herself in the stomach to cause an abortion. I'm angry at the woman, but I'm also angry at the people around her, who seemed to know she was very mentally disturbed and probably shouldn't be bringing a child to term in the first place. This is one fucked-up world sometimes.

Speaking of which, everyone should know by now that the governor of South Dakota signed their new abortion law. It should be a fun few years until this gets to the Supreme Court, which is the whole point of it anyway. What happens if the Court reaffirms Roe v. Wade? What will the anti-choicers do then?

The Rude Pundit, however, in his typically vulgar fashion, explains how to get abortion back in South Dakota. With the blessing of the legislators!

The fire chief in my lovely town of Mesa was arrested this week for ... allegedly having sex with a lamb. Yes, you read that correctly. I'm so proud to live here.


Dave Barry gives us all of the important updates.

Sleestak blogs the only portion of the Oscars that he thinks mattered:

That's right, the part with Salma Hayek.

And, of course, Tom the Dog live-blogged the pre-show and the whole show, because he's crazy.


San Nakji was having so much fun with comics this week, he gets his own category! Here is a fun flirting comic, here is a White Ninja comic (which he found at White Ninja Comics, appropriately enough), here is his laser-eye cat, here he wants to be a pirate, and here he finds out that sharks do not vote. Good fun all around!


This column avers that Jon Stewart is destroying the progressive movement in America. Yeah, because he has so much power. This post breaks down the idiocy. I found that link at Ahistoricality.

A few weeks ago, Abraham Lincoln and William Sherman were lynched in effigy in South Carolina. Here's the official site celebrating the event, where you can find pictures:

Explain to me why, when these people seceded, fighting a war to bring them back was the right thing?

You think I'm kidding about that? Perhaps you should check out the Republic of Texas interim government web site or maybe you'd like a Texas passport. I am sure these people aren't joking.

A teacher was put on leave after comparing elements of the State of the Union speech to some of Hitler's speeches. He has been re-instated. Interestingly enough, no parents actually complained - the school just freaked out.

Here's an interesting post about when abortion bans are okay.


Ian bring us the news that George Clooney says he played Batman gay. Substitute "badly" for "gay" and you might have something there!

Mark Trail uses his powers for evil rather than good. For shame, Mark!

Some interesting thoughts about death in comics and why we should all shut up about it.

Tom explains why he would write Wonder Woman for free.

Scott looks at getting frozen solid in comics.

Jake points out the X-Force/Spider-Man crossover in which the World Trade Center was knocked down. It's from 1991. I actually own those issues.

Marvel solicitations gone horribly wrong, including one about the adventures of a young May Parker:


This is a neat dictionary I found on Donklephant. It updates as you type - not need to click a button. And it has a cool suffix to the web address.

Here's an interesting question: Is raising the minimum wage a good idea? The nice thing about it is that it's not just a reactionary spouting off about the good old days of Standard Oil. The author wants to discuss it seriously. I got this from Heretical Ideas.


I'm sure you heard about the new crustacean that was discovered. If you haven't, for shame! Here's a picture of it:

How cool-looking is that? I found this link at Pharyngula.

Hey, guess what? The Laotian rat-squirrel is not extinct! I know you can all sleep better tonight.


Latigo Flint gives us two fine stories this week: The Tale of the Assistant Beekeeper and a short synopsis of his novel about a heroic otter.


That's a nice specific category, isn't it? Welcome to Blog gives us 25 things every Portlander must do. I have not done them all. I suppose I must move back to Portland.


Afe explains why babies are evil. But they're so cute!

Get your blog bitch-slapped! You can submit it to these people and they will tell you what's wrong with it.

Cool ways to die. And: More cool ways to die.

Woody! points us to a slogan generator. Put something in, get a slogan for it!

Do you want a secret passageway installed in your house? Sure you do! Heretical Ideas links to this site, where you can hire people to come in and install one. How cool - I would love to do this.

This is a great story for so many reasons. First, the headline: "Man says stripped delivered rob-o-gram." Then, the word "Bible study" appear in the story. And the guy's "defense," such as it is, is quite funny, too. So is the name of the business. Lots o' goodness!

Give spam a chance! (The junk e-mail, that is, not the strange food.)

Thomas is onto something: Blog franchising!

Who's that handsome devil? Yes, it's Bill O'Reilly, from 1975! This is from The Smoking Gun via Superfrankenstein.

Scott unveils his ... haiku against teen angst!

Do you love Lost so much you want to wear clothing advertising that fact? The tart shows you where to get it!

A letter from "Jeremy," the most understanding man in the world. Would I lie to you?

Sarcasmo points out movie posters and stills with babies instead of adults. My favorite, I think, is this:

She also links to a Trojan War blog. I haven't read it yet, so I don't know if it's any good, but we're reading the Iliad to Mia right now, so I thought it might be interesting.

Finally, styrofoamkitty points out the best part of Ultraviolet:

Yes, it's Milla Jovovich's ass. How sad. It's still better than xXx, in which Vin Diesel was out-acted by his coat.

That's all for this week. I hope you enjoy them! I'll be taking next week off, because this week is Spring Break (and if you think the idea of elementary and pre-school kids needing a "spring break" is laughable, you and I will get along just fine) and I have both kids with me, so my time will be limited and my sanity may be in question rather quickly. So I won't have time to surf. I'll still post, because that doesn't take that long. Wish me luck!

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11 March 1942

Douglas MacArthur leaves the Philippines.

MacArthur's defense of the islands was hamstrung by a lack of air and sea power. The Japanese invaded only two weeks after Pearl Harbor, and MacArthur organized a swift defense that was doomed from the start. On this day, he was finally persuaded to retreat, leaving behind the defenders, who surrendered to the Japanese a month later. In Adelaide a week after his retreat, MacArthur uttered his famous promise: "I shall return," and in October 1944 he kept his promise. However, at this point in the war, things were going poorly for the Allies, as the Philippines was added to a long list of defeats - Dunkirk, Pearl Harbor, Tobruk, Guam, Wake, and Singapore. Good thing that damned liberal media didn't get involved, or we'd all be speaking Japanese now!

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Strange liquid falling from the sky

I woke up this morning at four o'clock and heard a weird sound. It was the sound of pattering, as if small drops of something were hitting the ground and bouncing back up. It was coming from outside. What could it be????

I looked the strange phenomenon up on the Internet and discovered that it's called "rain." It's now after seven and it's still happening. How cool!

And so our almost five (!) months without precipitation comes to an end. This could go on all week and it would be fine with me. Of course, knowing Arizonans, by this afternoon they'll be whining about how the rain around here never stops.

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Happy Birthday, Chuck Norris!

It's his 66th birthday today. SIXTY-SIX?!?!?!?

Raise a glass to Chuck. After all, he can rip your spine right out of your body just by looking at you.

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Bruce Willis AND Sharon Stone need to shut up

Wow! Surprisingly enough, two celebrities need to shut up today. Who would have guessed they'd be opening their mouths in such idiotic abundance???

According to that bastion of journalistic integrity, the Arizona Republic, Mr. Willis has become a foreign policy expert. The nice thing about Willis is that he's a conservative (not Republican) Hollywood guy, so when he needs to shut up, it's for completely different reasons that most Hollywood people need to shut up. Bruce doesn't like drugs, and he thinks it's about time the United States did something about it:

"The United States and everyone who cares about protecting the freedoms that the largest part of the free world now has should do whatever it takes to end terrorism in the world. And not just in the Middle East," Willis said, according to one transcript of the conferences. "I'm talking also about going to Colombia and doing whatever it takes to end the cocaine trade. It's killing this country. It's killing all the countries that coke goes into."

Awesome, Bruce. The Colombian president didn't think it was too nice, but what the hell does Bruce care - he's John Fuckin' McClain!

Meanwhile, a true namby-pamby liberal, Sharon Stone, went to Israel, because the Jews and Muslims who hate each other there are going to listen to a statuesque blonde who flashed her cooter to millions of movie-goers. She said, "I would kiss just about anybody for peace in the Middle East." She may have been kidding, but the point is - what the hell is she doing there anyway?

Hey, Bruce and Sharon: go back to "singing" with your "band" and showing off your gams. And shut the hell up.

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10 March 1831

The French Foreign Legion is founded.

And inspires the movie Beau Geste and the very funny satire of that movie, The Last Remake Of Beau Geste.

I don't have a lot to say about the Legion that I haven't already said in this book review, so if you're interested, go check it out. Interesting group, the Legion.

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9 March 1862

The first battle of ironclad ships.

Lots of interesting stuff today, but I decided to highlight the Monitor and the Merrimac, because it was probably the most significant thing.

These two ships met off Hampton Roads, Virginia, and fought an inconclusive battle, but one that forever changed naval warfare. The Merrimac had been doing some damage to Union ships and was far larger and more heavily armed than the Monitor, which had been built specifically to stop the Merrimac. After many hours of close fighting, the Merrimac withdrew, but neither ship was really damaged. Neither ship had much of an impact on the war as a whole - the Merrimac was scuttled when the Confederacy withdrew from Norfolk, while the Monitor was lost in a storm off Cape Hatteras. But the fact that these ships proved that ironclad ships were viable meant that the age of wooden ships was effectively over. They lasted a while, of course, but were dinosaurs from this date on.

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Strange gelatinous foodstuffs!

Last week I grilled up some mahi mahi. Mmmm ... mahi mahi.

The little woman and I didn't want to eat it that night, so I put it on a plate, wrapped it in tinfoil, and threw it in the fridge. Modern living rules!

A few days later I decided to eat in for lunch. Krys and I hadn't gotten around to eating it and I didn't want it to go bad. So I took off the tinfoil and saw that some bizarre gelatin was gumming the fish to the plate. Eeeewwwww! What on earth was it????

Not to worry! It was simply the marinade I grilled the fish with - island teriyaki (by Soy Vay!). I pulled the fish off the plate, nuked it, and ate it. Damn it was tasty! I took a picture of the offending marinade in case it achieved consciousness and conquered the planet - at least I could show the authorities what it was and perhaps allow them to come up with a way to defeat it. I did wash it down the drain, and it has so far shown no signs of coming back.

Fear not the bizarre gelatinous foodstuffs, people!

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Kim Bauer is back, baby! Krys and I wondered if they were going to unleash the cougar they probably have caged right at CTU headquarters. Now that would have been quality television!

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It's only a movie

One of the reasons I occasionally get burned out by surfing the Internet is the asinine opinions. Actually, it's not really the asinine opinions that bug me - I'm certainly aware that I myself probably hold several opinions which might be classified as such - it's the sheer vehemence with which some people on the Internet express and defend such opinions. If you, for instance, think my list of great songs is asinine, so be it - this is America, and I'm not forcing you to like them. But a lot of people think that their opinion is the only one that matters, even if it's stupid.

Case in point: the Academy Awards. I watched the ceremony because I like Jon Stewart. He was fine, but not as funny as he is on The Daily Show, but that's okay, because I didn't expect him to be. I didn't really care one way or the other which movie won or even why they were nominated in the first place. I didn't care if George Clooney, despite a relatively classy (to use Krys's word, which fits) acceptance speech, came off a bit smug about how people in Hollywood are better than everyone else. It just didn't matter to me, and then the moment was gone, and it was over.

Then I read some blogs yesterday - specifically, conservative blogs. Jesus, do some people take the Oscars waaaaaay too seriously. First, Brokeback Mountain. I haven't seen it. Whatever. I read one right-winger claiming that if this had been a "straight" western and Kevin Costner had uttered the dialogue, the critics would have savaged it. Well, maybe. I don't know. I do know that Costner won an Oscar for a western, and that he was also in another (Silverado, a far superior movie to Dances With Wolves) in which he uttered some pretty stupid dialogue, but I didn't care all that much, because, well, it's only a movie. The blogger also points out that Brokeback Mountain isn't about cowboys, it's about shepherds. What the hell does that prove? I guess shepherd is a less "manly" occupation than cowboy, so it's okay if they're gay - but leave my cowboy icon alone!

Then there was Crash. This was the only movie nominated for any of the big awards that I have seen, simply because it's been out long enough for the DVD to be out, and I bought it. It's okay. It's certainly not the greatest movie ever, and I got sick of how every character is racist in some way, but it addressed racism and the differences between races in a way you rarely see in movies and hardly ever in real life, so that was nice. I don't know if it deserved the Best Picture Award, but I don't really care. It's only a movie. It's not going to change a thing, and it's not going to influence anyone. Racists aren't going to see it and say "Hey, people are people, so why should it be you and I should get along so awfully?" Then, of course, I read right-wing blogs, which tore it to shreds. "My Los Angeles looks nothing like the one in Crash!" "Who is this director talking about when he says 'We don't know how to deal with other races'? I'm not part of his 'we'." "I'm a police office in Los Angeles, and everyone I have worked with is super-fantastic to everyone and helps all people, regardless of race!" We'll, that's great for you. I read a conservative blog written by a black woman who implies quite often that racism no longer exists in America. I'm sure you can find a million black people in America who claim racism no longer exists. That doesn't mean it doesn't. I would say to these people who had an issue with Crash: it's only a movie. It's fiction. FICTION! Of course the coincidences are overwhelming. Of course the characters all go through life-altering events in the space of 24 hours. Of course the irony is thick. Paul Haggis was trying to make a point. You can argue that he doesn't make it well, but don't argue the point. That's just stupid. It's the same thing with Munich. You can argue that Spielberg made a bad movie, but I'm sick of people bashing him because he dared suggest that killing someone might make you a little less human. Horrors!

Of course the Academy is political. So what? How much power do they actually have? When have Oscars ever been socially relevant? If George Clooney says something, do the politicians in Washington really jump up and do what he says? I don't know, but I doubt it. And of course the Academy doesn't give out awards to the "best" pictures. So what? They give out awards to movies they think are important and make them feel good about themselves, and that's their prerogative. Why is everyone making such a big deal about the awards? We have to eliminate a good, what, 70% of the movies released every year anyway, not because they're crappy movies, but because they don't fit with what the Academy considers "important." The last time a comedy won the Best Picture Award was Annie Hall in 1977. The last time anything remotely resembling a comedy won was Shakespeare In Love in 1998, and I think we can all agree that it was a mistake. In 1999 Eddie Murphy should have been nominated (and I think he should have won) for his dual role in Bowfinger - he was funny in both roles, in completely different ways. Science fiction is out, too. Some truly great movies have been considered "sci-fi" so they're completely disregarded. In terms of influence and sheer mind-blowingness, The Matrix should have been nominated. The fact that a fantasy movie won a few years ago is pretty stunning, if you ask me. But it won't set a trend.

So who cares about the Oscars? Why make such a big deal about the horrible liberals celebrating evil degenerate movies that teach our kids that fags are human and some people don't like each other based only on race? This is why the Internet bugs me occasionally. It's only a movie, after all.

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