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!


Stupid conservative radio talk show hosts should shut up!

Today I foolishly switched to one of the many conservative radio stations in town, mostly because there were commercials on the sports talk radio shows. Once Rush Limbaugh was on, and the other time Michael Savage was on. I turned them off quickly, because they made me angry. I'm rather unabashedly liberal (for the most part, although like a lot of people, I'm liberal on some things and conservative on others, something hard core people on both sides tend to forget), but I don't like crazies on either side ranting about stuff. As conservative talk dominates the airwaves here in the Basin, I usually end up listening to that for a few minutes. So what did I hear today that made me angry?

Rush was talking about Barack Obama, his wife, and his ex-preacher. He was going on about Michelle Obama giving a speech to a group of women and encouraging them to stay out of jobs that pay shitloads of money and stay in jobs that have to do with service for the community that don't pay as much. Rush did say that it's noble to be in social work, but he specifically picked on Ms. Obama because he says she is "anti-middle class." He said she got this idea specifically from Obama's pastor, the controversial Jeremiah Wright, who, according to Rush, has ranted against the middle class before. Wright, according to Rush, is very against materialism and hates the middle class. Now, I have no idea if Wright is actually anti-middle class. If he's friends with the Obamas, who are very wealthy, I doubt it. One point on which I tend to agree with conservatives is that liberal Democrats in politics tend to be far richer than they like to admit, so their concern for the poor comes off as a bit disingenuous. I don't know what Michelle Obama's speech was about or what her motivation was, but it seems, from what Rush said, that Reverend Wright is actually talking about being a good Christian. You know, that Jesus dude, who told everyone who followed him to give away everything they owned? Now, I'm sure Rush considers himself a Christian, so you'd think he would be remotely familiar with the teachings of Jesus. You know, as he's the basis for the religion and all. So I'm unsure why he's so angry about Reverend Wright railing against materialism. Shouldn't all pastors do that?

Okay, moving on to Michael Savage. He was reading an article about the Larkspur, California city council. The writer of this article was ranting about the fact that Larkspur, along with several other city councils, are so politically correct that they're turning into Communist cells. Yes, Savage called them "Communist cells." Anyway, the writer was saying that the city council had decided to speak with a unified voice to the media. That means, according to this writer, that if a vote goes 3-2, the minority does not get to voice their opinions. The writer was apoplectic that the Larkspur city council would oppress free speech in this way. It's like a Chinese village in the 1950s, according to Savage. Or, you know, like the United States circa 2003, when anyone who suggested that the war might not be the best idea was branded a traitor. Remember those great days? Apparently, if you disagree with something that's really cool, like stupid wars, then the majority can overrule any dissent! But when a tiny town in stupid hippie California does something, then we need to send in the Marines to liberate the noble conservatives hiding in their basements because the town council is squashing their right to speak!

This is why I hate conservative talk show hosts. Not because they're wrong, because they're often correct. But extreme people on both sides are so blind to the shit their own sides pull while they're condemning the sins of the other side. I mean, I agree that taxing the shit out of people isn't the best idea, but I hate to hear conservatives condemn it while never admitting that giving tax breaks while spending more money and growing the deficit to obscene amounts is probably not the best way to run the country. And I hate to hear liberals condemn the wealthy while they make more money than I will ever do and then say we need to tax people like me more. They both suck. But conservatives are louder and more obnoxious, so they earn my ire. Fuck Rush and fuck Savage. Rush needs to find out what it means to be a Christian, and Savage needs to remember recent times in our country when the conservative majority oppressed free speech. So fuck 'em both.

Labels: , , ,


Top Ten Day: My favorite science fiction books

In the wake of Arthur C. Clarke's death, I thought I'd list my favorite science fiction books. Yes, I started this post last week, but his death is still recent enough to make this relevant. So here they are, in chronological order!

1. Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut (1969). This is not only one of my favorite science fiction books, but one of my favorite books, period. It's very funny and very tragic, and Vonnegut comes up with pithy phrases that encapsulate so much horror. Vonnegut skips back and forth in time, as his hero, Billy Pilgrim, has become "unstuck" from time and is able to travel to any point in his life. We get the weird period he spends on Tralfamadore with Montana Wildhack, the porn star, and we get the horrific bombing of Dresden, but it never feels disjointed. It's a masterpiece, and I should probably go read some more Vonnegut, shouldn't I?

2. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (1974). It's been a long time since I read this, but it's still an excellent book, harrowing and tragic and a nice allegory about soldiers fighting wars they don't understand. It's probably not too big a leap to think that Haldeman was thinking a little bit about Vietnam when he wrote this. The main character is fighting a war against an alien species, and despite his tours of duty being relatively short, because of time dilation, he misses decades on Earth and finds that society has changed so much the only thing that keeps him sane is returning to the army. It's an exciting war book, which made my teenaged self happy, but at its core, it's a devastating examination on the effects war has on soldiers. I recently bought it - I really ought to read it again.

3. A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle (1978). A Wrinkle in Time is better-known, but this, written about twenty years later, shows L'Engle's growth as a writer - it's far more mature, subtle, interesting, and powerful. Charles Wallace, the young boy from the first two books of this trilogy (A Wind in the Door is the second book), is now a teenager, and he flies a unicorn through time to avert a nuclear disaster. L'Engle introduces several characters from throughout time, linking everything together very elegantly, and the story becomes one of love through the ages and its power in overcoming evil. It's written for teens, as are most L'Engle books, but it's a book that adults can enjoy as well.

4. The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke (1979). I like a lot of Clarke novels, but this one is spectacular. An engineer conceives of a "space elevator" linking an island in the Pacific (it's called Taprobane in the book, but it's basically Sri Lanka, where Clarke spent most of the latter part of his life) to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit. Vannevar Morgan believes this will allow spaceships to dock without using rockets to get off the ground, which is much more cost-effective. Clarke also tells the story of an ancient king, Kalidasa, whose drive mirrors Morgan's. It's a wonderful book, the kind of science fiction that not only offers a plausible vision of the future but also explores the human condition. Clarke often does this, but rarely with such aplomb. It's magnificent.

5. Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert Heinlein (1984). This was the first Heinlein book I read, and still remains my favorite. I've never been a big fan of his other stuff, although Time Enough for Love is quite good. Job tells the story of a minister who somehow switches realities, always with his newfound love, Margethe, by his side. He soon learns that it's a build-up to the Rapture, and when that occurs, he has to make a choice between his religion and his love. It's a fairly raunchy book (nothing too hardcore, but quite lewd nonetheless), it's wildly funny and very satirical. At its core, however, it's a nice love story.

6. The Messiah Choice by Jack L. Chalker (1985). This is, I suppose, not quite true "science fiction," in that it deals with demonic possession and a war against, well, Satan, but I consider it science fiction because of the vast telecommunication system that plays such a crucial part of the book, which in 1985 was still in the realm of fantasy. This is an exciting book, one that has a lot of nice Christian touches without being a Christian tract. Satan does indeed attempt to bring about the Apocalypse, but the hero has a more generic kind of faith than a true Christian one. Despite the fact that it's a ripping page-turner, it still manages to explore the problems of technology gone mad and how to stay human in an increasingly mechanized world. (It's also out of print, which kind of sucks.)

7. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams (1987). Dirk is one of my favorite fictional detectives, and this, the first book starring him, is marvelous - a mishmash of genres, with ghosts, aliens, time travelers, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge all playing important roles. It's very funny, in an altogether more mature humor vein than the Hitchhiker books (the first of which would have made this list, except I tried to limit myself to one book per author, and I like this more than the book that made Adams a superstar), and it's also an very interesting mystery. It's convoluted but, unlike the next book with Dirk (The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul), makes perfect sense once it's all explained (the follow-up still puzzles me a little). Adams returned to his cash cow after writing two Dirk Gently books, and of course died prematurely, but I do wish he had been able to write a few more.

8. Liege-Killer by Christopher Hinz (1987). Hinz doesn't seem to be a big name in sci-fi, and that's a shame, because his Paratwa trilogy, which begins with this book, is fantastic. This is the best of the three, because the next two got a bit too esoteric. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, but this book manages to balance strange philosophy with rip-snorting action, and the mystery of the book is compelling as well. The story takes place after Earth's nuclear destruction, when mankind lives on hundreds of satellites orbiting the dead planet. In the frenzy of technology before the end, mankind created the Paratwa, deadly assassins that are two separate bodies governed by one mind. They can function as independent beings or as a single entity, basically a killer with four arms and four eyes, making them very hard to kill. In this first novel, a Paratwa is awakened on the colonies, and two ancient Paratwa-hunters are revived from stasis to find it. Hinz makes trenchant points about genetic engineering and political machinations, as we learn that one of the ruling caste of the Paratwa - an Ash Ock - is living in the colonies and manipulating humankind, but he also makes sure that the book is a thriller. I absolutely love this book.

9. Xenocide by Orson Scott Card (1991). Card is one of my favorite sci-fi authors, despite his rather rightist political leanings. I met him once, in 1986, at the World Trade Center in New York. His Alvin Maker books are my favorite, but I can't think of a single volume that's better than any others, and they stretch the definition of speculative fiction into fantasy fiction anyway. Xenocide is the third book in a quartet that began with Ender's Game, which is probably his best-known novel. Xenocide is a far more mature work, however. It's a book about genocide and how human arrogance leads to destruction and how people need to overcome their basic instincts to co-exist. It's also a fairly interesting mystery, in that Ender must discover how the lifeforms on Lusitania (the planet at the center of the book) live. It's a nice balance, too, between the harder science fiction of Card's earlier work and the wildly esoteric stuff he does later in the final book of the series, Children of the Mind. I may not like Card's politics, but he's a very good writer.

10. Imajica by Clive Barker (1991). Imajica is a massive book, and to attempt to summarize it, even a little, would be pointless. It's the first (and so far, only) Barker book I've read (I own a few others, but haven't read them yet), and it left me breathless. It's a Quest novel, full of magic and sex and violence and ruminations on religion. It's often tough to follow, because Barker packs it with so many characters and worlds, but it's a wonderful experience reading it. If you've never read any Clive Barker, start here.

I see that in recent years I have tended to move away from science fiction a bit. It's not that I don't like it anymore, I just got interested in a lot of other stuff too. It's also hard to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to science fiction (like a lot of pure genre fiction). I mean, have you been to the bookstore recently and checked out the sci-fi section? Holy crap, it's huge! How can I tell what's good and what's not?

Anyway, what's on your list of favorite science fiction novels! Embrace your inner geek and let it out!

Labels: , ,


D. B. Cooper's parachute?

Some kids may have found D. B. Cooper's parachute. Who's D. B. Cooper, you ask? WHO'S D. B. COOPER?!?!?!?!? Shame on you for not knowing who D. B. Cooper is!

Anyway, this could be an interesting turn of events. If it's, in fact, true.

Labels: ,


What I've been reading

Recently, I decided to get two new books about that greatest of all medieval kings, Charles the Great, Karolus Magnus, Charlemagne. I've dug Charlemagne for years, so it was fun to read two relatively short books back-to-back. Enjoy!

Charlemagne by Derek Wilson. 226 pages, 2005, Vintage Books.

Despite my love of the Merovingians, the dynasty that preceded Charlemagne's and the last king of which was deposed by Charlemagne's father, the emperor has always been fascinating to me. If you're at all interested in medieval European history, Charlemagne is fascinating. He's that magnetic and that important to the study of European history.

This book is rather odd, as it purports to be a biography of Charlemagne, but it really isn't. Charlemagne dies on page 130, and the final 70+ pages deal with his legacy. The actual biographical section of the book is interesting, but Wilson doesn't uncover too much that's new. He goes over the major events of the king's life, which are fascinating enough, with a great deal of focus on his empire-building. He does get into the so-called Carolingian Renaissance, but not to the extent that it probably deserves. He is far more interested in showing how Charlemagne, through his use of Christianity to unite the disparate ethnicities in his empire, created an idea of "Europe" that outlasted both him and his descendants. This is the crux of his argument, and once Charlemagne shuffles off this mortal coil, that's when his book actually takes off.

Wilson tracks the way Charlemagne became a myth, a process that began almost as soon as he died. This was made easier by the fact that the emperor's heirs were nowhere near as competent as he was, so whether it was Einhard writing during the reign of Louis the Pious, Charlemagne's son, or Notker the Stammerer writing during the reign of Charles the Fat, Charlemagne's great-grandson, the propaganda machine began making the empire-founder larger than life. Later in the Middle Ages, of course, the Chanson de Roland made Charlemagne (who doesn't appear very much in the poem) a godlike figure, and in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when the romances flourished in France, Charlemagne became a paragon of knightly virtues and a supreme Crusader, even though he never went on Crusade. Wilson also tracks the Holy Roman Empire in the sixteenth century, when Maximilian tried to emulate the great king and his son Charles V became ruler of a vast tract of territory even larger than Charlemagne's. Both of these men consciously looked back to Charlemagne in order to justify their actions, especially with regard to the Catholic Church and the new Protestant movement.

Wilson also looks at Louis XIV and Napoleon, two men who also consciously emulated Charlemagne, Napoleon more than most. As we move into the nineteenth century, it's interesting how Charlemagne becomes both a French and German hero, despite the fact that the two countries developed a fierce rivalry and Charlemagne wouldn't have distinguished between the two. This division between Romance-speakers and Germanic-speakers goes back to the Treaty of Verdun in 843, when the empire was split between Charlemagne's three grandsons and it's unlikely that Lothar I, as ruler of the "French" portion, and Louis the German even understood each other anymore, but in the 1800s, the division became even more pronounced. Germany had been reluctant to embrace Charlemagne, but under Bismarck and Wilhelm I and later under Hitler, who proclaimed the Carolingian Empire the "First Reich" (hence his "Third Reich," which followed the "Second Reich" of Wilhelm), the emperor was embraced as a paragon of Germanic values. Wilson shows the contradictory attitude of Hitler toward the king who fought for most of his life against the pagan Saxons, as on one hand he condemned the emperor for being a pawn of the Papacy, and on the other hand praising his martial virtues. Such was the myth of Charlemagne.

The examination of the myth is what makes this book so fascinating. It's not a horribly scholarly book, but Wilson does do a nice job with the survey of Western history since Charlemagne, and if he doesn't get too in-depth, he still gives us a good portrait of what Charlemagne meant to Europe. He reaches the modern world with his thesis intact, pointing out that Churchill and de Gaulle both spoke of a United States of Europe, and that the original European Economic Community was created from the countries that made up Charlemagne's empire: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Charlemagne's legacy lives on!

Becoming Charlemagne: Europe, Baghdad, and the Empires of A.D. 800 by Jeff Sypeck. 284 pages, 2006, Harper Perennial.

Moving on, we get to a book with a tighter focus than Wilson's book, as Sypeck focuses on the five or so years around 800, when Charlemagne was crowned emperor in Rome. Sypeck examines the justification of this act, which was a bit of a breach of "international law," such as it was. In 800, the Byzantine Empire, as weak as it was at that period in its history, was still technically the "Roman Empire," nominally exercising suzerainty over the lands of the Roman Empire, which included Western Europe. Charlemagne's coronation was therefore a coup d'etat, theoretically.

Sypeck argues that part of the reason why Charlemagne took this dramatic step was because the "emperor" in Constantinople in 800 was a woman named Irene. Irene was not a good empress and apparently not a nice woman, as she had her own son blinded so that he could no longer rule (as Byzantine custom dictated) and took over. Sypeck has a low opinion of Irene, but it's perhaps a bit undeserved - her son, Constantine VI, was universally reviled, and Irene had few options when dealing with him. She also tried to solve the Iconoclast controversy, which came close to tearing the empire apart. Iconoclasm was a movement in which people destroyed icons of the church because it was too close to worshipping graven images. It was partly inspired by Islam's rejection of representations of Muhammed. Irene was a factor in squashing the Iconoclast movement, which had upset many citizens throughout the empire who, frankly, enjoyed their icons! So perhaps the judgment of history on Irene is a bit harsher than the reality. But Sypeck does make a decent case that because of the fact that a woman was on the throne, technically nobody was on the throne, and that helped Charlemagne make his case.

Another point that Sypeck makes is that, in the 790s, Charlemagne was powerful enought to shape international policy, and that meant dealing with the Abbasid Caliphate ruled by Harun al-Rashid from Baghdad. This was another spur to his establishment of the empire - the need to deal with the caliph as an equal, especially as the Abbasids were, as it turned out, natural allies to the Carolingians, despite their religious differences. One of the most interesting points of Sypeck's book is how he explodes the myth that these Christians and Muslims were so ideologically opposed that they couldn't work together, which is absolutely false. In Spain, the original Arab Caliphate, the Umayyads, still ruled, which made Harun nervous. The Byzantines were still trying to enforce their rights in southern Italy, which made Charlemagne nervous. It was much better for Charlemagne and Harun to ally, although neither man made much practical use of the alliance.

Sypeck does a good job explaining the role of the small Jewish population within Charlemagne's empire (another example of the Christians ignoring religious differences, as the Jews were allowed many rights under Charlemagne) in bringing about the alliance with the Abbasids, and he also does a nice job with Alcuin, the British monk who served as Charlemagne's mentor for years before retiring to Tours. Alcuin was a driving force behind the coronations, and Sypeck uses his letters from the late 790s well to show how he shaped Charlemagne's mindset in those crucial years.

Finally, Sypeck nicely shows how the situation in Rome led to the coronation. In 799, Pope Leo III was attacked in the streets by factions hostile to his rule, and he managed to escape and flee north. He reached Aachen, Charlemagne's capital, and convinced the king to return with him to Rome and hold a trial exonerating him of various charges laid against him. Charlemagne obliged, and Sypeck makes it clear that his price for this assistance was a crown. The scene in St. Peter's on Christmas Day, 800, is fairly familiar, as later propagandists proclaimed that Charlemagne didn't actually want to be emperor and was surprised when Leo crowned him, but that's simply a tale to lionize the emperor and has no basis in fact - Charlemagne knew what was going on, as did everyone else in the building.

The aftermath of the coronation is handled less well, as Sypeck appears to lose interest in everything but the famous elephant that Harun al-Rashid sent north to solidify the alliance. The elephant is a fascinating piece of history, but in the grand scheme, it's not that important. Sypeck does go over Irene's downfall and the fact that it took over a decade before a new Byzantine emperor would recognize Charlemagne's new title, but again, it's a bit of an afterthought. For a book that is called Becoming Charlemagne, he spends too much time with the "becoming" part and not enough time with what it actually meant. He does skim the impact this event had on both the present and the future, but not enough. He also doesn't spend enough time in Constantinople and Baghdad. He spends more time with Irene than Harun, but it seems odd that he doesn't place Charlemagne in more context. He sets up the book as if it will be much more balanced among the three empires, but he quickly abandons the Abbasid and Byzantine states, which makes me wonder why he introduced them in the first place. The actual text of this book is only 206 pages, and it's in fairly large print, as if Sypeck was assigned a 200-page essay to write and he wanted to stretch out his 150-page essay to fit. This could have been a much more in-depth book without being much longer in terms of page count. It's a very readable book, I'll admit, and not a bad piece of purely popular history, but it's a bit disappointing that it lingers too often on trivia.

So those are the two Charlemagne books I read recently. If you've never read anything about the man and are interested in a quick read, Sypeck's book is probably fine for you. Wilson's isn't a dry tome, but it does get a bit more into what Charlemagne's impact on Europe is, and his focus on Charlemagne's life is a bit broader. Wilson's is certainly a better book. (Sypeck's blog is pretty keen, though.)

Labels: , , ,


Picture Day remains in Canada

Let's finish up our three-day trip to Vancouver in late May 2001, shall we?

These first two pictures are of seal lions hanging out on logs in the Burrard Inlet. The first one shows how close we are to the city, while the second shows the sea lions up close.

Check it out: it's the world's narrowest building! Yes, it's an actual working building - the insurance offices inside are fully functional!

I may have showed a picture of this before, but we still found it extremely funny. It's the man on the traffic symbol, and we just love that he looks so jaunty!

This is the public library in downtown Vancouver. Two things about it: I love that it looks like the Roman Coliseum, and if you've ever seen the horrid Schwarzeneggar movie The Sixth Day, it's the building where Robert Duvall is holding the big event near the beginning of the movie.

We passed this restaurant on Sunday, and it was closed, so we did not get to see the sushi-making robots. But how awesome is robots making sushi?!?!?!? Next: they use their sushi-making skills to take over the world!

Krys and I went out to a fancy Native American restaurant our last night in town. This is us!

When we left on Monday, we drove around West Vancouver and stopped to get one last look at the city. I dig the dramatic sky. This is late May, remember, and it was pretty stinkin' cold. Vancouver is beautiful, but I can't believe it's all that pleasant, weather-wise.

On the way home, we stopped at a Buddhist monastery south of the city. It was very neat, but we weren't allowed to take pictures inside. So this is the exterior. It was pouring down raining, but we didn't care - we lived in Portland, for crying out loud!

And here's the border!

We really liked visiting Vancouver, but as long-time readers of this blog (you know you're out there!) may remember, while we were there, someone broke into our car and stole ten CDs. It was partly my fault - I left them in the car while it was parked in the hotel garage, but come on - anyone could get into that garage! So whenever we talk about Canada, we mention what a crime-ridden cesspool it is. Yes, I'm kidding - Vancouver in particular and Canada in general are wonderful places to visit. Plan your trip today!

Labels: , , , ,

Celebrities getting away with stuff again

I don't often complain about celebrities, because it's kind of pointless. Who cares, right? Yesterday, however, I was reading a blog about the Phoenix Suns, of all things, and a commenter used this somewhat NSFW picture as an avatar (which is why I just didn't post it on this page). My question is: why isn't someone arresting her? I mean, I don't care, but somehow I think that if I walked down the street with something that sheer on my lower regions, I'd get arrested. But it's Jennifer Love Hewitt, and she's a celebrity. Personally, I think more people should be allowed to go naked - even the ugly ones! I'm not terribly hung up on it, nor do I think it will warp our children. But there are still laws against it, right? Does this not count because she's technically not naked, or are the cops too mesmerized by her breasts to care?

Labels: , , ,


Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008

I'm sure you've probably heard already, but Arthur C. Clarke has died at the age of 90.

I was always a huge Clarke fan, which is perhaps not surprising. I'm male and slightly nerdy. It seems like Clarke's books would be much more interesting to men than women - I'm have no evidence that that's true, but it seems like it would be. He was my first favorite author - I first discovered him in the mid-1980s, when I was 13 or so. The first Clarke book I read was Rendezvous With Rama, and I quickly devoured more of his work: 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010: Odyssey Two, 2061: Odyssey Three, The Songs of Distant Earth, The Ghost of the Grand Banks, Childhood's End, The Fountains of Paradise, plus a bunch of short stories. I fell behind reading them when I moved on to college and discovered other great authors. Clarke kept writing, and he died with over 100 books on his résumé. I think Rendezvous With Rama and The Fountains of Paradise are my two favorite novels, but his books from the 1950s, '60s, and '70s are excellent. My absolute favorite Clarke works are two short stories - "The Nine Billion Names of God" and "The Star." (You can read them at those links - they're short!) Those are two of my favorite short stories by any author, by the way.

Clarke was a true visionary, and it's amazing to see how much of what he predicted seems possible now. Read an Arthur C. Clarke book today in tribute!

(This just in: Ivan Dixon has died at the age of 76. Dixon, of course, starred in Hogan's Heroes in the 1960s, but I occasionally see his name as the director of some Magnum, P. I. episodes. I always liked Kinch. He always seemed to be the most competent of the prisoners. LeBeau, Carter, and Richard Dawson were buffoons, but Kinch knew what he was doing, man!)

Labels: , , ,

Picture Day goes north of the border!

For the Memorial Day weekend in 2001, Krys and I decided to take a short trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, which we had never visited in our eight years in Portland. We had always wanted to, so we seized the day! Boy, it was a lot easier to carpe diem when we didn't have two kids. Isn't that always the way?

In case you've never been to Vancouver, here's a map. I also found some cool images on-line:

The downtown area is that thumb of land with the park at its tip, which is part of the reason why Vancouver is one if the most picturesque cities I've ever visited. Grouse Mountain, where some of these pictures were taken, is at the top of these pictures, behind North Vancouver. Just so you know.

Our first stop was the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which is quite awesome. It's up in North Vancouver, and is quite the tourist attraction. Note all the people in these pictures!

In that last picture, we were trying to get across the idea that the bridge sways a lot. Unfortunately, we didn't have a video camera, so you really can't get that from a still photo. But it sways. A lot. It's actually kind of difficult to walk across!

This next photo is the cable car up to Grouse Mountain, which is the ski resort that, technically I guess, is inside city limits. How neat. Of course, we went there in May, so there wasn't a whole lot of skiing going on. But that doesn't mean there wasn't snow!

This is a rather hazy shot of downtown. The wooded area off to the right is Stanley Park, which is a nice big area right to the northwest of downtown. The bridge from Stanley Park to the north shore, which you can see vaguely, is Lion's Gate Bridge, and is the only outlet from downtown to that part of the city, which makes traffic on it hellish.

This is me, of course, in the snow. I rule!

We took a boat tour around Vancouver, so I took photographs of downtown, of course! I took this one specifically because of the floating gas stations in the water there. Yes, they're actually gas stations. How are you going to fill up your boat, after all?

The building in the middle of this picture is interesting. You can see the "suspenders" that extend from its top, which makes it rather eye-catching. This is apparently to keep it safe in an earthquake. Vancouver is on the "Ring of Fire," which means it gets frequent earthquakes, and engineers claim this is a safe design. I'm not an engineer, so who am I to argue?

This is Gastown, the historic part of Vancouver. It was the place that was first settled, and has become a trendy spot after years of neglect. We walked around later on. Pictures to follow!

So that's the first part of our Vancouver trip. As I've mentioned in the past, this is one of my favorite cities, so I wish I could return. Maybe some day!

Labels: , , , ,


Yet another fun news story

I don't have a good Top Ten topic this week, so I'm going to think about it for next week. In the meantime, I found another fun news story on yonder Internet. A 15-year-old student in Connecticut is suing the school district because a teacher slammed her hand on the desk next to head ... to wake him up. Yes, he was sleeping in class, the teacher woke him up, and now he's suing because he experienced ... well, who cares - he's freakin' suing the school district! I'm sure his parents are encouraging him in this. People wonder why America is going down the tubes. I don't.

Labels: , , ,

Poor, persecuted large-breasted women now have hope

You know, we should all pity women with ample bosoms. I mean, they never get any attention from men, they can never find clothing that fits, instead having to get shirts that cause their breasts to almost pop out at any occasion, and they never catch a break from Johnny Law. Until last week, that is!

In case you missed it, Serena Kozakura, a Japanese pin-up model, appealed a conviction against her for willful destruction of property. The court originally convicted her, but the Tokyo High Court overturned it, thanks to the fact that her breasts were too big! Yes, Miss Kozakura was supposed to have crawled through a hole in a door that was smaller than her 44-inch bust could accommodate. Voila! Conviction overturned! Of course, because we're interested in justice around this here blog, we give you photographic evidence of Serena's "alibis":

This is a press conference/news report about the story. It's almost 5 minutes long and entirely in Japanese, but about 4 minutes in or so, we see Serena recreating the actual "crime," including showing us how big the hole was through which she was supposed to have crawled! Consider that the Japanese news spent almost 5 minutes on this story! And people say the American news covers worthless things!

I'm glad that large-breasted women everywhere can take some hope from the ordeal of Serena Kozakura. Maybe now they can finally start to get some attention from the men of this world! I can only imagine how this appeal ended:

Serena (coquettishly): "I couldn't have done it, Your Honor! Not ... with these!" (Dramatically rips open blouse, shooting buttons across the room)
Judge (leering): "Case dismissed! And for that shocking breach of etiquette, I'll see you in my chambers, Miss Kozakura!"

Labels: , , ,


This is almost unspeakable

I can barely conceive of the horror of this story. All I will say about it is that the words "pry bar" and "toilet seat" should never be used in conjunction with each other. Read that article and tell me you're not horrified. You cannot!

(I should add a caveat - "if it's true." It seems ridiculous that no one would notice that this woman was missing for this long. It's not 1 April, though, so I'm going to assume it's true until I hear otherwise.)

Labels: ,


Mary Ann caught with Mary Jane

Dawn Wells was recently sentenced to six months' probation. She was technically sentenced for reckless driving, but a lesser charge of drug possession - the cops "allegedly" found marijuana in the car - was dropped. Yes, that Dawn Wells. She's 69 years old now, by the way. Her lawyer is insistent that the weed wasn't hers. Because people are always leaving marijuana in my van after I give them a ride, don't you know.

I just thought that was a fun little news nugget. And because I wanted to say that if you claim to like Mary Ann more than Ginger, you're nuts. Ginger was all about the kinky sex, man! She was a Hollywood starlet! I don't buy the idea that because Mary Ann was a repressed farm girl she'd be a wildcat in bed. She might enjoy sex more, because Ginger has probably done it in so many ways she'd just stare at you with cold, dead eyes, but you know she'd be willing to do some weird stuff! You just know it!

Labels: , , , ,

Racism ... in South Carolina? Really?

Here's an article about a minister protesting a "redneck shop" in South Carolina (it's actually called "The Redneck Shop"!) because it sells KKK robes and T-shirts with racial slurs printed on them. The minister actually owns the building in which the store is located, but an agreement allows the owner of the shop to stay there until he dies.

I'm not going to get into the property battle, but I will say that it's really amazing that people like the shop owner not only still exist, but are proud of being racist. I mean, I know racists still exist (even though it's rather depressing), but to be so happy that you're a racist is kind of disheartening. The owner of the store says he was once Grand Dragon of the KKK in the Carolinas. Sheesh.

I don't think anyone should deliberately shut him down. This is America, after all. What we should do is ridicule him ceaselessly. What an idiot.

It's 2008, for crying out loud. I'm sad that this kind of thing is still prevalent in this country. I'm certainly glad that, according to many Republicans, there's absolutely no racism in America and black people should just shut up. Yeah, they're right. Come on, all you African-Americans - put on a KKK robe and lighten up! It's only a lynching! They're nothing but fun!

Labels: , ,


Autumn returns to Picture Day

October of 2000 saw us hiking in the Columbia River Gorge once more. It was the thing to do! I'm not sure along which trail these pictures were taken, but they show how nifty Oregon is in the fall.

I love this picture of Krys sitting by the waterfall. She looks so happy. Maybe she had forgotten that she was married to me!

This is Stanich's, a burger joint right outside of downtown Portland. That's me on the far left (ah, I was svelte back in the day!), my boss Patti, Brian, and Kirk. Kirk and I are wearing Washington gear because they had played the Eagles the previous week and lost, and the standing bet around our office was that the loser had to wear the winner's stuff. The other part of the bet was that we had to eat wherever Brian wanted, and he picked Stanich's. The restaurant is a bit of a Portland institution, but I had never been there. The bet was that we had to eat a hamburger with everything on it. I like my burgers with only ketchup and cheese, so this was annoying. Burgers at Stanich's are gigantic and packed with fixin's, and they give you tiny napkins, which is annoying. They're also difficult to eat because they're so big, so it's best not to even put them down, because they might fall apart. So I had to eat a gigantic burger, and it wasn't all that great. It was okay, but I have no idea why people love this place so much. Oh well. I miss football bets like we used to have. They were fun.

In celebration of our new cats (more on them soon!), I thought I'd add a picture of our deceased cats. They liked climbing up on top of the cabinets in our kitchen. I miss our kitties.

Well, that's another batch of pictures for you. Next week: into the hive of thieves! Don't miss it!

Labels: , , ,


Top Ten Day: My favorite hair metal videos

Ah, the 1980s. A great time to be a suburban American lad. The streets were safe, the girls used lots of hair spray, the television shows were full of virile men toting large guns, and the bands wore more make-up than the school slut and played aggressive, in-your-face metal but could also show their sensitive sides. Yes, it was the age of HAIR METAL! What red-blooded teenaged boy could resist? And lo, Kip Winger spoke unto us, telling us that seventeen might be too young for the girl's father, but she's old enough for him; David Coverdale showed us that the safest way to drive is with a redhead half your age Frenching you while dangling out the window; and Slaughter explained that it was best to be up all night while sleeping all day. The videos, of course, made hair metal and even, somewhat, destroyed it. But for almost a decade (let's say 1983-1991), hair bands ruled the world. And I was along for the ride. Until Nirvana ruined it all!

I could probably list 100 of my favorite hair metal videos, but let's stick to ten, shall we? (I should probably point out that some of these videos aren't of the best sound quality, and the lip-syncing on one is really horrible. But that's what you get from YouTube, unfortunately!)

Cinderella, "Nobody's Fool." This isn't the best Cinderella song, but it might be the best video. Tom Keifer and the guys are in full hair metal mode, the "story" of the video, in which a girl transforms into a modern-day Cinderella, is awesome, and it features the guitar twirl! How can you not love it?

Def Leppard, "Rock of Ages." The chick strapped to a tree. The burning tree. The gloved hand crushing a wine glass. The hooded apparitions speaking what sounds like German. An ass shot of lead guitarist Phil Collen! What an awesome video. What a great song. (I guess technically the guys' hair wasn't really poofy until Hysteria in 1987, but I consider Pyromania a seminal "hair metal" album, even if the hair is only long and not high. That, and the songs on Pyromania are far better than those on Hysteria.)

Great White, "Once Bitten, Twice Shy." This is a very good song (of course, it's a cover of an old Mott the Hoople song), with that great piano part and a pretty cool guitar solo. I like the video, even though it's just a standard "performance" video, because the lead singer, Jack Russell, is so stinkin' ugly, but you know he was getting laid every night, and I liked the girls (of course). I always thought the girl second from the right when they're all singing (whose breasts get their own close-up near the end) was smokin' hot. Come on - I was 18!

Mötley Crüe, "Home Sweet Home." Is this the greatest power ballad ever? It's in the conversation. This might not be my favorite Crüe song (that's probably "Wildside"), but it's close. But this song and video are so classic, with all the elements of a great concert video - notably, girls crawling on the stage and taking their tops off! Man, the Eighties ruled!

Queensryche, "Eyes of a Stranger." I love this song, off an album that might be the best heavy metal album of the Eighties. Geoff Tate, rocking the hair, screams the lyrics, and the video is part of the whole "concept album" thing that Queensryche had going on with Operation: Mindcrime. And you must love guitarist Michael Wilton's awesome hat!

Skid Row, "I Remember You." This is one of those great pseudo-ballads by a hair metal, meaning it's somewhat sensitive but still features kick-ass guitars and a bit of a scream. There's a reason they were called "power ballads," because they were muscular love songs, man! Sebastian Bach, of course, was the pretty boy front man of Skid Row, and although he was probably scoring four or five groupies a day, at least he was good-looking, unlike a lot of these rockers! This video must have been cribbed from a karaoke screen, because it has helpful lyrics!

Van Halen, "Hot for Teacher." Another song that isn't the greatest, but you have to love the video! David Lee driving the bus, the guys in their school days, the ending that shows where they all ended up (Edward van Halen was "relaxing" in Bellevue Mental Ward), and, of course, the hot teachers!

Warrant, "Cherry Pie." I can't defend this song. In fact, I don't even like it that much. But this video is the perfect epitome of the age: slightly feminine guys, skanky hot chicks, big hair (of course!), rockin' guitars, and totally juvenile sex puns. Sing along!

Whitesnake, "Still of the Night." Of course, Whitesnake is famous for their "Here I Go Again" video, with Tawny Kitaen writhing around on a Jaguar, but I like this song more (despite the fact that it rips off Zeppelin), and the video features Tawny as well. So who can complain?

Winger, "Seventeen." Ah, Kip. What a pretty boy. I love this video, even though it's a standard "performance" video, because Kip treats his bass like a prop, only occasionally pretending to play it, and the fact that he studied ballet makes this a really odd video, as he dances around much more gracefully than you might expect. And his poor shirt doesn't survive the video. Too bad!

There are, of course, way too many great videos to mention. Krys and I were just sitting here spitballing, and I had to stop before I listed another 10. But, while I was trolling YouTube, I thought of a bonus, which definitely doesn't count as "hair metal," because Rob Halford didn't have any hair! Fear the magic finger of Rob Halford! Fear it!

All right, that's enough. I'm having way too much fun. What are your favorite hair metal videos? Don't be shy - we know you loved them all!

Labels: , , ,


Picture Day goes to ... China?

In September 2000 Krys and I went to China, and we have the pictures to prove it! Oh, okay, we didn't go to China, but we did go to the brand spanking-new Chinese garden in downtown Portland, built to rival the Japanese garden in the West Hills. Ancient Asian rivalries, playing out in modern-day America in garden form! The only winners - the gaijin, who get to check both out!

I'll forego commentary and just let the coolness wash over you!

The last picture is Krys and I in our funky house. My mom was visiting, so we were going out to dinner, hence the dress-up. There's our poor dead cat Zoe. She was so cool.

So here's another reason to visit Portland. Yes, I can give you many, many of them. Book your flight today!

Labels: , , ,


Weird things in Venezuela and Nigeria

So Hugh Chavez wants Venezuelans to stop using so many English words. When did Chavez go so far around the bend? This is just an example of what happens when dictators become insecure and start freaking out about their power. Chavez is still popular in Venezuela, and more power to him and his subjects if they enjoy that, but to think they can stop English from being used just because it's the language of the imperialists is a bit silly. English, for better or for worse, has become an international language, and forcing people to stop using it just because you don't like George Bush is goofy.

Speaking of English, Nigerians speak an excellent variation. Some are worried that they will be handicapped because of the globalization of English, but I think using the word "jubilate" to mean "celebrate" is awesome. Keep it up, Nigerians!

Labels: , , ,