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!


Where are they now?

A few weeks ago I was watching television, as is my wont. Yes, I am primarily entertained by the electronic teat. So sue me. Anyway, I was watching the end of two particularly egregious movies (not at the same time - I think they were on consecutive days): Dragonslayer and Just One Of The Guys. These are not good movies, no matter what people might tell you. Dragonslayer features some nice special effects for 1981, but it's still only okay. When I was 10 I actually got the book with photo stills from the movie. How cool was I!

Anyway, both of these movies feature young ladies who never became big stars. I remember that Bill Simmons on the ESPN web site wondered about the female movie stars of the 1980s, and I decided to steal his idea and just take a look at some of the ones I remember. Just for fun.

First, Dragonslayer. Caitlin Clarke was Valerian, the girl whose father dresses up as a boy so she won't be sacrificed to the dragon. This is her first film role, and she was almost 30 at the time. She's not that attractive in the movie, but she has a sweet face and she probably cleans up nice. She was also in Crocodile Dundee and Blown Away, but she never really parlayed her work in Dragonslayer into anything big. I'd show her picture, but do you know how hard it is to find stills from Dragonslayer on the web?

The other movie I watched was Just One Of The Guys, another bad movie. You remember this one: girl reporter wants story, goes undercover as a boy in a different high school, hilarity ensues. This movie didn't quite introduce Sherilyn Fenn to the world, but it was early in her career, and she could easily be another actress who never quite made it. I think Sherilyn Fenn was one of the most beautiful women in the world in the late 1980s and early 1990s, so that's why I mentioned her. It also starred Arye Gross, who was so good in Soul Man and still shows up a lot in minor roles. But the actress in the lead, Joyce Hyser, is the focus today:

Posted by Picasa
She was also in Valley Girl (I'll get to that), Staying Alive, This Is Spinal Tap (all before Just One Of The Guys, and Species II. Now that's a résumé! I feel bad for Hyser, because they must have strapped down her breasts a lot in this movie, since she's posing as a boy. And it was all the more impressive when we got the obligatory topless shot at the end of the movie which I will link to but won't post here because this is a family blog, damn it! and this kind of puerile titillation is not for children, just, you know, immature adults. Hyser never really took off as an actress. I wonder why. Maybe she just wasn't very good.

So those were the two movies I actually saw. I began thinking of other movies from the 1980s with actresses who never made it big in them. I came up with a few:

Clash Of The Titans. I saw this in the movie theater in 1981 and loved it. Ray Harryhausen special effects and angry Greek goddesses. Who wouldn't love it? It had a pretty decent cast, even though it was pretty much a junk movie: Harry Hamlin was Perseus, while Burgess Meredith, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress, and Laurence Olivier (!) all show up. Andromeda was played by Judi Bowker:
Judi Bowker
Ms. Bowker played Andromeda with simpering goodness, especially when she was chained to the rock and the Kraken was coming! Oh, the horror! She worked some through the 1980s, but never went on to anything else of this magnitude.

Of course, one of the great teenage movies of the 1980s was Sixteen Candles. No, Molly Ringwald doesn't really count here, but the girl who was dating that low-rent Matt Dillon character that Molly gets all weak in the knees over does. Her name is Haviland Morris, and here she is with Jake, the low-rent Matt Dillon guy:

Posted by Picasa
Most guys remember her from the shower scene (I don't even know if it's a body double). Interestingly enough, she wore a blonde wig for the movie. I always liked that she ended up with Anthony Michael Hall. Nerds everywhere got their hopes up. She also appeared in Who's That Girl? and Gremlins 2: The New Batch, but never made a big splash. Maybe she should have kept the wig!

Another movie in the 1980s that I always liked (even though Krys thinks I'm nuts) is Can't Buy Me Love, starring a young Patrick Dempsey. I think it's a sweet little love story, and it starred Amanda Peterson, who has done even less work than the actresses I've already named:

Posted by Picasa
She was seriously hot in that movie. She was born only a few months after I was, so when I saw it, I thought I had a chance with her! Yeah, okay. Maybe she didn't get any significant work after this because she always looked like she was going to cry. Moviegoers didn't like that look.

Another hottie who never amounted to much is Deborah Foreman of the early 1980s classic Valley Girl. Who among us doesn't love Valley Girl, with good ol' Nic Cage? It's another underrated movie. Ms. Foreman actually has a web site, and a bunch o' people on the web have much love for her. Here she is in Valley Girl:

Posted by Picasa
She had a bit of a career, as she also appeared in My Chauffeur

Posted by Picasa
and Real Genius, in which she flirts with Val Kilmer thusly:

Chris Knight: So, if there's anything I can do for you, or, more to the point, to you, you just let me know.
Susan: Can you hammer a six-inch spike through a board with your penis?
Chris Knight: Not right now.
Susan: A girl's gotta have her standards.

Can't you just see her saying it to him in this picture?

Posted by Picasa

The last actress is the Crown Princess of 1980s movies. She actually had a pretty decent career, but I still count her. I'm speaking of Phoebe Cates,

Posted by Picasa
who burst onto the scene in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, which remains a great movie (it was her second role, by the way).

Posted by Picasa
There were a lot of people in this movie, some of whom (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Sean Penn, Forest Whitaker) went on to decent careers, and some of whom (Robert Romanus and Brian Backer) didn't. Phoebe, of course, is tattooed on the brains of most men of my generation for her exit from the pool in the fantasy of Brad (Judge Reinhold).¹ Ms. Cates had a decent career, but then she married Kevin Kline and I guess he makes enough money for both of them, because she has pretty much retired. It's a shame.

I don't really have a point here, I just thought it would be fun to go through my hormonally-charged teen years and the movies' influence on them. I know I've missed plenty of movies and plenty of hot babes who never became stars. Anyone care to chime in with a few?

¹ I tried to link to the iconic pictures of Ms. Cates taking off the red bikini, but the links got messed up and went to some nasty places. So I got rid of them. You should be able to visualize it, after all!


Don't let the terrorists win!

Speaking of moral issues (like I was in the post below this one), I'm sure you're all going out to pick up the January issue of GQ magazine, in which Wafah Dufour has a photo spread. Who's Wafah Dufour? She's Osama Bin Laden's niece! Because I'm all about the sleaze here, check out some pictures:
 Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa

She doesn't like her uncle, so she's okay. Remember, Muslim fundamentalists frown on overtly sexual females, so if you buy this issue, you're doing your part to spread freedom everywhere! But it's immoral to look at scantily-clad women! Oh, what would our president advise us to do! It's a quandary!


Why do "moral issues" mean Republican talking points?

We still have lots o' company, so my posting schedule is still erratic, but today everyone is at the zoo, and I got to stay home, so I thought I'd put something on the blog.

I got a letter from my Congressman! Whoo-hoo! My Congressman is J.D. Hayworth, a man I find vile. (If you go to his web site you can hear his smarmy voice!) He spoke at the graduation of the class of 2002 at the first school I taught at in Arizona, and the adjective that most leaps to mind when describing him is "unctuous." Of course, that can probably be said for most of our elected representatives! Anyway, why is this guy sending me a letter? We have our long-distance telephone service through a nice, relatively small Commie company, who will send letters to your Representative if you want them to, about issues you might find interesting. They're usually left-wing, "crazy" objections like Americans don't like their government spying on them or something.¹ Krys must have checked the box to send a letter to good ol' J.D., because I received a response from him (my name's on the bill). I was going to scan it, but I thought I'd just quote from it:

Dear Mr. Burgas (over which he signed "Gregory" - that's a nice, homey touch, don't you think?):

Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns about H.R. 235, the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act. It was good to hear from you.[You can see where this is going ...]

As you know, most houses of worship are classified as tax-exempt organizations under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. They are prohibited from certain activities as a condition of receiving tax-exempt status. In particular, 501(c)(3) organizations are not allowed to engage in any speech or activities that can be regarded as political. IRS agents in various parts of the country have applied this ban differently, and this has caused some houses of worship to refrain from even discussing moral issues for fear that they will be perceived as partisan and lose their tax-exempt status.

H.R. 235 would allow a church to participate in political activity while maintaining its tax-exempt status as long as such participation is not a substantial part of its activities. I support modifying the law to ensure that houses of worship are not banned from legitimately discussing moral issues.

Thanks again for contacting me. Although we do not agree on this issue, I appreciate your input and hope to hear from you soon.

Oh, you will, Congressman ... When I steal your seat on my inevitable take-over of power!!!!! (Oh. Did I type that? Whoops.)

I don't really have that big a problem with this law. Krys does, obviously, or she wouldn't have sent the letter. I don't like it, but it doesn't stick in my craw like some do. However, I was interested in the wording of his letter. Churches can't discuss "moral issue"? That's all churches should be discussing! I enjoy how Republicans have tied themselves to fundamentalist Christians over the past, what, two decades, and now they see the problem with that - if Pat Robertson thunders about the evil of John Kerry from the pulpit, he's no longer tax-exempt. Bwah-ha-ha-ha!

As some of you may know, when I'm dictator churches will lose their tax-exempt status and can therefore endorse any candidate they want. I'm still a bit confused by what Hayworth is talking about, though. If you're a preacher and you don't like gay people, why can't you say anything about it? If you're a minister and you think abortion is wrong, why can't you mention it? If you're a priest and you think Desperate Housewives is leading us all on a merry path to Hell, why can't you speak up? These are all "moral" issues, and although they appear these days to be primarily Republican issues, that shouldn't mean churches can't condemn (or, alternately, uplift things they find virtuous) them. I suspect some of these churches who have been penalized by the IRS say stuff like, "Gay marriage is the worst thing that has ever happened to this world, and you should support Bush because he doesn't like it!" That's wrong. However, most people know Bush's stand on gay marriage. If a preacher says that gay marriage is wrong and you agree with him, you probably know the president is on your side. You don't need Pastor Smith telling you.

I object to this law because it seems to be saying that we should allow churches to be more political, not that we should allow them to discuss "moral" issues. As with most claims by both sides of the political spectrum, I'd like to see J.D. give me one example of a church that was penalized for talking about "moral" issues and see exactly what was said. Churches shouldn't be political at all - 2000 years of Christianity has shown us what happens when churches get political.

Anyway, the bill hasn't been voted on yet - it's in the Ways and Means Committee, of which Hayworth is a member. If you don't like the sound of it (and you can read the text here), send a letter! Start here!

¹ Those kooks!


Godless heathens rise up!

Merry Christmas to y'all. Or whatever it is you celebrate. Or if you don't celebrate anything, have a nice day. Or you could celebrate Festivus, like the people of Erie, Pennsylvania. However you do it, do it well!


Great songs, according to me (Parts 1-15)

The first fifteen parts of Great Songs, According To Me:

Part One: "Abigail, Belle Of Kilronan" by Magnetic Fields through "All I Ever Wanted" by Lenny Kravitz.
Part Two: "All I Gave" by World Party through "Amsterdam" by Coldplay.
Part Three: "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" by The Pogues through "As Good As New" by ABBA.
Part Four: "Asleep On The Motorway" by Jesus Jones through "Bartender's Rag" by Thin White Rope.
Part Five: "Bad" by U2 through "Behind The Lines/Duchess/Guide Vocal" by Genesis.
Part Six: "Behold! The Nightmare" by Smashing Pumpkins through "Bitchin' Camaro" by The Dead Milkmen.
Part Seven: "Black" by Pearl Jam through "Bone China" by Mother Love Bone.
Part Eight: "Boogie With Stu" by Led Zeppelin through "Bridge" by Queensryche.
Part Nine: "Bring The Noise" by Anthrax through "Camel Walk" by Southern Culture On The Skids.
Part Ten: "Cassandra" by ABBA through "Christmas At Ground Zero" by "Weird Al" Yankovic.
Part Eleven: "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses through "Common People" by Pulp.
Part Twelve: "The Company" by Fish through "Cult Of Personality" by Living Colour.
Part Thirteen: "D.M.S.R." by Prince through "Dear Friend" by Fish.
Part Fourteen: "Death And Dying" by Shelter through "Devils Haircut" by Beck.
Part Fifteen: Discothèque by U2 through Drip, Drip, Drip by Chumbawamba.

Great songs, according to me (Part 15)

You know you want to know what the next ten songs are in my continuing series of great songs according to me! Don't deny it! So let's jump right in:

141. Discothèque (by U2 on the album Pop, 1997): Many people do not like this album. This bothered me, because I loved that U2 was moving beyond its roots and attempting new things. Once it sold like crap, they went back to the same old same old, which is good but kind of sad. This song kicks off the album, and you know it's going to be something different, because it's funky and driving and everything U2 isn't. Yes, it's unusual, but part of its greatness is because Bono and the lads were willing to try, and for the most part, especially with this song, they succeeded. Listen to Pop again. Don't you wish they had kept experimenting?

142. Does Anybody Out There Even Care (by Lenny Kravitz on the album Let Love Rule, 1989): Lenny's first album had some good songs and some not-so-good, but this one is the best one on it. It's a nice socially conscious song, and it starts off nice and quiet, but then Lenny freaks out, and it's always fun when Lenny freaks out. Then, when he says, "We better catch ourselves before we fall," he's singing from the very depths of his soul, which is always something that helps a song achieve greatness. Fine tune, this is.

143. Don't Change (by INXS on the album Shabooh Shoobah, 1982): The final song on this amazing album is a rather sad paean to innocence and stability. There's not a lot to the song, but Hutchence sings with such passion that you can't help but feel it and love it. "Things have been dark for too long," indeed.

144. Don't Crash The Car Tonight (by Mary's Danish on the album There Goes The Wondertruck ..., 1989): God, what a cool album. Funky and country all at once, and this starts the album with a blast of both. Whiny voices (in a good way), a driving guitar, funky bass, and cool lyrics. It's short and sweet and sets the mood for the rest of the album perfectly. I miss Mary's Danish.

145. Don't Wait That Long (by James on the album Seven, 1992): I absolutely love this song. It's a love song, and a cry for help, and the music and lyrics mesh perfectly. It starts off quietly with horns and moves easily into Tim Booth's slightly nasal voice, plaintively asking, "How long will it take to get used to me?" When he gets to "I don't understand how our fight starts, not enough to believe in love, I don't know, I don't know, I don't know where we've gone wrong," you can feel the pain in his voice. This whole album is very good, and this is the crown jewel. I miss James.

146. Down And Out (by Genesis on the album ... And Then There Were Three, 1978): This is the first song on this album, and it's a strong start for a very good Genesis disc. This is the third Phil Collins as lead singer album, and it's interesting, because you can hear the band wobbling between the art-rock Gabriel era and the future pop-era Collins stuff. This song, interestingly enough, is a song about the pressure of being a aging rock band who might need a hit in order to keep their contract. It's a bittersweet album, because it marks a step along the way to Invisible Touch (blech), but this song remains a powerful statement about the music business and how it operates.

147. Down To The River To Pray (by Alison Krauss on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, 2000): Boy, is this a nice song. Sweet and spiritual, and Krauss's voice is stunning. It can't help but uplift you. The whole soundtrack is excellent, but when this song comes on, you must turn it up and turn your heart to prayer. It's almost enough to make me a Christian lad.

148. Driftwood (by Travis on the album The Man Who, 1999): Travis is kind of a weird, dorky little band, kind of Coldplay-lite. I only own this one album, and it's not bad, but there's a lot o' depressing tunes on it. Get out in the sunshine, boys! "Driftwood" is the best song on the album, because it's a tad more bouncy and fun (not much, but a little) and it has a great chorus: "I'm sorry that you've turned to driftwood, but you've been drifting for a long, long time." A fine, wistful tune (and if it's the funnest song on the album, you know the rest of it is depressing) that zips along and makes you wonder where your moral center is.

149. Drink Before The War (by Sinéad O'Connor on the album The Lion And The Cobra, 1987): O'Connor's beautiful and powerful voice is on full display on this song, which should end her debut album (but doesn't). This is a brilliant anti-war song, and O'Connor is so snarly and wounded as she sings, you just can't escape her disdain, especially at the end, when she practically screams, "So stop talking of war, 'cause you know we've heard it all before ... Why don't you go out there and do something useful?" Ah, the glory that is Sinéad!

150. Drip, Drip, Drip (by Chumbawamba on the album Tubthumper, 1997): I have mentioned this album before - yes, "Tubthumping" was an annoying song after a while, and it's not that good to begin with, but the rest of the album is very good, and this song is near the top. As usual with this album, it's a funky beat with darker lyrics, and it soars triumphantly when the gang sings, "Take me in, throw me out, put me up, let me down ..." Superb stuff from those wacky anarchists.

Another ten songs in the book. Only 600 or so to go! I'm in it for the long haul, people! As usual, if you're interested in the other songs I think are great, you can read about them here: Part One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine Ten Eleven Twelve Thirteen and .... Fourteen. Phew!


What I've been reading

I've read some books. And now I'm going to tell you about them.

Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz, "edited and abridged for today's reader by James S. Bell, Jr."¹
499 pages, 1896 (original publication date; this version was published in 1992), Moody Press

I bought this book at the big book sale in February, so it was a crippling two dollars (just like in Better Off Dead). My dad is a big fan of Sienkiewicz's Polish history trilogy, and I know this is a classic, so I figured I'd read it, even though it's published by a seriously Christian publishing house. Oh well - it's a book about Christians, after all!

For those of you who don't know the story (or missed the 1951 Robert Taylor/Deborah Kerr movie), it's a tale of Nero's Rome (it takes place around A.D. 64 or so) and a centurion named Marcus Vinicius and his overwhelming love for Lygia, a foreigner who was captured in one of Rome's innumerable wars and brought to Rome as a hostage. Vinicius sees her and is overwhelmed with passion for her, but she's a Christian and he's not, so she rejects him, even though he's apparently so dreamy she gets weak in the knees when she talks to him. At one point she thinks he can be the man of her dreams, but he acts boorishly (and almost brutally) at a party and she realizes he is from a different world than she is and she has to run for it. Vinicius can't understand why she does this, and he tries to figure it out. His friend, Petronius, helps him find her, and Vinicius eventually becomes a Christian, much to the chagrin of Petronius. This transformation of Vinicius comes at an awkward time, as Nero decides to burn Rome and blame the Christians, so the lovers' lives are placed in danger. The latter part of the book is given over to how Petronius and Vinicius rescue Lygia and flee Rome before Nero can have them executed. It's grand adventure - Roman style!

This is an extremely entertaining book. It has everything - adventure, romance, politics, murder, torture, orgies, religion, and philosophy. Who could ask for more? The romance between Vinicius and Lygia is at the heart of the book, of course, and it's a very interesting story. Vinicius is a harsh and almost evil man at the beginning of the book - he doesn't do anything truly reprehensible, although at the party where he scares Lygia he comes close. For much of the first half of the book he acts like a typical Roman man - cynical andchauvinisticc, completely misunderstanding why Lygia would reject him. After he is wounded and nursed back to health by Christians, however, he begins to wonder more about their strange religion, and his desire for Lygia leads him to study her faith more seriously, which eventually causes him to embrace. It's a fascinating transformation, because at the beginning, we want to like Vinicius, and when he acts poorly, we reject him utterly. However, we slowly come around to the fact that he has changed completely and is worthy of Lygia's love. Then, by the end, we are bound to him and his wife as they try to escape the insanity that was Nero's Rome.

The Christianity of the book is new and raw, unlike the stultified faith we see today. Peter and Paul are major characters in the book, and Peter, especially, is important, because Vinicius and Petronius come to realize that he must be telling the truth about Jesus because no one could be so convincing a liar. Peter is the one who draws Vinicius toward Christianity, and Paul eventually convinces him to convert. The religion is presented, obviously, as a contrast to Rome's worldly and unbelieving population - the Christians of the book are saints, even the ones we wouldn't expect to be. That's not to say it's a bad thing - they are swept away by this ecstatic and mystical new experience, and throughout the book, Christianity is presented as a very positive and wonderful thing. The one character who scolds non-Christians and tells them are going to hell is himself scolded by Peter and Paul, who tell him that Christians are non-judgmental and accepting - quite a contrast from what we see today in the Christian world. The Christians in the book accept their horrible fate in the arena following Nero's scapegoating of them with grace and dignity, and it is this example that shows many Romans the way to the faith. It is the kind of portrayal Christianity that highlights the glory of coming to Christ, rather than the uppity attitude we see today from many Christians. I'm sure there were plenty of Christians who screamed when the lions sank their teeth into them, because it's human nature, but Sienkiewicz wants to show us that this religion helps people overcome their human nature, so therefore even a jerk like Vinicius can become a good man. Early in the book, Vinicius and Petronius often remark that Christianity is an enemy of life, because it demands that you look to death so much. We see that as Vinicius changes, he comes to realize that Peter and Paul's Christianity makes life more worth living because of the promise of life after death, and that it doesn't diminish it in the least.

Although he spends much of the book praising the Christians and their faith, Sienkiewicz isn't a complete propagandist for the religion. In fact, one could say that Petronius, who remains a pagan, is the book's most interesting and moral character. He refuses to give in to Vinicius's new faith, even after meeting and discussing it extensively with Paul. He refuses, in fact, to believe in any gods, because they demand too much of him. He is devoted completely to the pursuit of beauty and art in this life, and cares nothing for the next one. In Joseph Heller's Picture This (a great and underrated book, by the way), Heller makes the point that all religions except the Jewish and Greek ones think more of us dead than alive. Petronius personifies that ideal - he is interested in living life according to his principles and pursuing an epicurean fantasy as best he can, and no one is going to stop him from that. Sienkiewicz never allows him to become a villain or a betrayer of those principles - even though, as I suspect, Sienkiewicz was a good Christian, he does not look down on Petronius's life, and in fact gives him a death as noble as the Christians'. Petronius has to die, of course, because he is a sane adviser to Nero during a time when every politician in Rome was going insane, but in death he continues to elevate beauty and art above all else. He does not betray his principles, and Sienkiewicz only subtly suggests that we should pity him for not gaining eternal life.

As with many Christian epics (or, indeed, a lot of other kinds of fiction), there's quite a bit of salaciousness in the book. It takes place in Nero's Rome, after all, when lawlessness ran wild and the upper class indulged in every vice. I saw a recent book attempting to rehabilitate Nero, but from everything anyone has ever said about him, he was completely insane and in many ways worse than Caligula. Sienkiewicz goes into great detail when he writes about the parties that turn into orgies, and although the morality of the day constrains him, you still get a very good idea of the depravity of the rich. When he writes about the executions in the arena following the fire of Rome, the book gets even more disturbing. In accounts of martyrdom from back in the day, there's always a weird, ecstatic, sexual feeling about the way Christians die, and Sienkiewicz indulges in that with page after page of gory detail about the animals eating Christians and later, Christians being crucified for Nero's pleasure. It's not exactly perverse, but it is an interesting look into the dark side of Christian martyrdom - yes, it's noble to die for your faith, but there's also something unsettling about people who take an almost sexual delight in dying for their God. It elevates Quo Vadis from a simple tract on early Christianity to a psychological drama about why people religion and martyrdom so willingly.

I recommend this book for a lot of reasons. It's a love story, and a gripping adventure, but it also delves into religion and the nature of faith - all faiths - in ways that most operatic and cinematic (which it is - I'm not surprised it was made into a movie) tales do not. It's a pretty easy read, too, so if you're digging around the library or the used book sale and you see it, pick it up.


In the time I was finding the time to write about Quo Vadis, I finished another book:

Swastika by Michael Slade
416 pages, 2005, Onyx, a division of Penguin

Twenty years ago or so, I was browsing through the local library when I came across a hardcover book with a woman's head on it. The woman's head had a spike through it and it was dripping blood. I was intrigued, because I'm a sadistic little fuck, I guess, and I took the book out. It was excellent. That book was called Headhunter, and it began my shameful and dirty affair with Michael Slade.

Michael Slade is a pseudonym. It used to be two Vancouver, B.C., lawyers writing the books, but one of them left and the other's daughter became the second author. Slade has written 11 books in 20 years, and when you read one, you can be confident that certain things will occur:

1. The novel will be based in Vancouver.
2. The novel will feature members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's Special X Division, which deals in weird crimes.
3. The novel will feature horrific crimes described in loving detail.
4. The novel will feature a psychopath(s) whose identity will be difficult to discern - these are, to a certain extent, mysteries, after all.

I love these books. Not everyone will, I understand. They're not particularly well-written, but unlike, say, John Grisham, you actually want to turn each page to see what happens next. If you don't like gore, don't read them. Seriously. These are some of the most blood-drenched novels you ever want to read - Slade takes perverse joy in coming up with murders that up the ante in every book, even chapter by chapter. Yes, it's disgusting and won't make any lists of great art, but I can live with it, because it's fun to see what creepy things they're going to come with next. The books star the same people, usually, although Slade keeps expanding his roster with each book, so that the stars of the early books - Robert DeClercq and Zinc Chandler - aren't the focus as much any more. In this book, Chandler hardly appears at all and DeClercq only plays a key role near the end. I was disappointed when Slade stopped giving us specific dates for the crimes - in the early books, we knew the years in which each crime spree occurred, but as DeClercq and Chandler mysteriously never got any older, the books shifted to a more comic-book universe where everything happens "now." A minor annoyance.

The crown jewel of the series remains the first book, because Headhunter had a true mystery and an excellent twist at the end - all the books have twists, but some succeed better than others, and the first one is still the best - plus it was tragic in a way the others haven't been. This latest book is a typical Slade horror-fest, although it's better than the last few because Slade gets more into other areas of interest rather than just the horror. Sure, there are Nazis and the awful things they did (and do, as the killers are modern-day Nazis), but there's also a lot about quantum mechanics as well. It might all be bullshit, but it's interesting reading, and it places the crimes in a bigger context that Slade usually deals with.

It's a quick read - it took me four or five days to plow through it. It's definitely not for everyone, as I mentioned, but if you're looking for something to pass the time and you like horror, read Slade's novels. Start at the beginning - it's more fun that way.

Look at that - two books for the price of one! Who says I don't take care of you here at the blog?

¹ Seriously, that's what's written on the cover. WTF? Are "today's readers" too stupid to get the whole gist of it? Are our attention spans too short? If I cared, I would call up this James S. Bell, Jr. and ask him just who the hell he thinks he is.


What have we learned - Week 15

Well, it's that time of year when, frankly, football games get boring. What, say you? But it's playoff time! Well, no, it isn't. So many teams are eliminated, so their games are boring (although I did still watch the Eagles game), and other teams have wrapped up their playoff position, so they have nothing to play for. Sure, there are some good match-ups, but not as many as there are earlier in the year, when teams like, say, the Cardinals still have hope. We had some good games this weekend, however, but I missed a lot of them. As I mentioned, it's a hectic time of year!

The Eagles and Rams were, not too long ago, playoff teams. Now they are just ugly teams. The two teams combined for 28 penalties, and none of the three quarterbacks (the Rams used two) threw for 100 yards. In today's NFL, that's pretty difficult to do, especially because neither defense was that dominant. Philly did just enough to win, and they have some hope next year, but they better spend the money they have wisely.

What can you say about the Cardinals? It was a road game, but it was the Texans. The freakin' Texans. Here's what Arizona should do: keep Kurt Warner for another year, draft Jay Cutler, and sit him for a year until he learns how to run the offense. Who's Jay Cutler, say you? He's the Vanderbilt quarterback, and he's damned good. Matt Leinart won't be on the board anymore (they should take him if he's there), but Cutler is really good. As long as they don't get him killed in his rookie year, he'll be fine. And the Cardinals will be in a new stadium next year, so the fans will come for that season for the novelty of that, but after that, they better win. So. When do I get hired as a consultant?

I didn't watch Saturday's games. Everyone better watch out for the Patriots, though. 63-7 in the last two games, and they're getting healthy. Two years ago they beat the Colts in Indy, too, so look out for them. As for the Giants ... I'm still not sold on them. Manning is at least a year away, if not two. He throws some horrible interceptions, and that will kill him in the playoffs. The Broncos look pretty good, too. They might be able to beat Indy, too.

The big game of the weekend was, of course, San Diego at Indianapolis. I wished I had picked games this weekend, because I may have come off looking like a genius. I'm not saying I would have picked the Chargers, but I wasn't surprised by the outcome. What have I been saying for weeks? Put some freakin' pressure on Peyton Manning! I know it's easier said than done, but it wasn't that hard. No quarterback is good when you get pressure on him, and Manning certainly can't move like McNabb or Vick. Yes, the Chargers shut down Edgerrin James, but the key was getting pressure on Manning. The Colts should still be the favorites to win the Super Bowl, but a lot of teams suddenly got a lot more comfortable about their chances - Denver, Cincinnati, New England, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Carolina are all going to be looking closely at the film of this game.

I didn't see any of the Steelers-Vikings game. I refuse to comment. Neither team is all that good.

The Saints played to almost no crowds in Baton Rouge. Is this indicative of a general malaise about one of professional sports' worst teams, or is it that Louisianians still have better things to do with their time in the aftermath of the hurricanes? I vote for a little bit from both, but I still don't think anyone should get too carried away with the talk of moving the Saints. It's better to have no sports team than to have one that is consistently awful. Trust me. And for those who think Nancy-Boy Favre's and Peyton Manning's consecutive starts streaks are overrated, Aaron Brooks was benched yesterday, ending his string of 82 straight starts, the third-longest active streak. How Aaron Brooks starts 82 consecutive games in this world is beyond me.

Will the Dolphins be any good next year, or is this just a meaningless blip at the end of a bad season? Do the Jets have any hope that they will improve, or is this the way it's going to be in New Jersey? The answers are: yes, and no.

I'm sorry, I know they're a sexy pick, but if the Jaguars can't beat the 49ers on their home field by any more than 1 point, they're one-and-done in the playoffs. Thanks for showing up, Jacksonville. Will Alex Smith be any better with Reggie Bush in the backfield?

I know it was only Detroit, but the Bengals are looking like a team that has it all together at the right time. They'll play - let's say the Steelers in the first round of the playoffs, and although that's not a gimme, I think they overwhelm Pittsburgh with talent again, and then they play at Denver in the second round. That will be a fun game. This team is fun to watch - kind of like the Rams were a few years ago. And how can you not love Chad Johnson - he actually gave the Cleveland cornerback who covered him a check on his wall chart. He gave him four checks, actually. At least he knows when he didn't have a good game.

Browns 9, Raiders 7. This game should have been televised in black-and-white, because I think it was played in 1940. When are the Raiders going to get rid of Sebastian Janikowski, and why doesn't his name ever come up in biggest first round busts of all time?

Dallas-Washington was one of those games that I hate, because I hate both teams. That being said, I hate the Cowboys more, so it was sweet to watch them get dismantled like that. I have told everyone about Chris Cooley before, but apparently Dallas didn't watch the game film of the Eagles game, or they would have covered him. Let's see if the Eagles have watched game film of their previous game with Washington and cover him in a couple of weeks. I doubt it.

Michael Vick is getting worse. That's weird, isn't it? I mean, he looks good at times, and he's certainly talented, but as Eric Allen put it this morning, the more film you get on a guy, the better you can defend him. Vick is still very good at being Vick, but he hasn't progressed in any other aspect of his game. That's why I bash Vick - not because he's a running quarterback, but because no strictly running QB has ever won in the NFL - he needs to add the passing part of the game, and he's getting worse at that. Interesting to see what happens with the Falcons next year, because I don't think they're making the playoffs this year.

Next week I will venture into the wilds of Tempe, AZ, to watch my beloved Eagles play the Cardinals. Before yesterday, I was worried, but it appears the Arizona has packed it in for the year and the Eagles are trying to finish 8-8, which would be a major accomplishment considering the shit they've been through this year. Live football is fun - it's not something I want to do every week, but it's been four years since I went to a game, so this should be a neat experience. And the temperature might be in the 60s - that's football weather!


The Big West comes to Picture Day

Sorry, no links this weekend. Hectic time of year, you know - not enough time to cruise around the Internet to my satisfaction! Gordon and Roger have some, and Laura does them seemingly every day, so there you go. I'll be back with the links in the new year, as parents and sister and brother-in-law are visiting for Christmas and they will demand I interact with them as a real person. The nerve!

Moving on to the pictures: After we left Kansas behind, we reached Denver and wandered around Boulder for a while. It's a nice college town (or it was in 1993 - it could be a stinking pit of sewage these days) and we had a fun time. Then we headed north on Interstate 25 through the lowlands of the state. It's a lot like Kansas in eastern Colorado. Check it out:
 Posted by Picasa

Then we went into Wyoming, which has to be the least densely populated state in the lower 48 (Alaska might be further down on the list). It's a beautiful state, but I would go insane if I lived there, because I don't like rodeos. We drove through Cheyenne and Caspar and watched the gorgeous scenery. We stopped and took pictures, like this one of Krys in front of the big rock;
 Posted by Picasa
and this one, which is what much of Wyoming looks like:
 Posted by Picasa

We stayed the night in Kaycee, along I-25 and the Powder River. This was our weirdest night of the trip. We drove into town late in the afternoon (but not too late - maybe 5 o'clock) and were surprised to see nobody on the streets. Seriously. The town looked deserted. Then, down the street, we saw one person. He (or she - it was too far away to tell) was shoeing a horse. In the middle of the street. I love the West! The campsite was bizarre, too - it was nice enough, but with a lot of overgrown weeds, and it was next to an abandoned playground that was VERY overgrown - we kept expecting the Children of the Damned to start using it. As we hunkered down for the night, we realized where all the townspeople were. No they weren't vampires or zombies! The only place in town that exhibited any activity was the Hole-in-the-Wall Bar, from which loud music was pumping. I'm not kidding about the name, by the way. We didn't see anyone, but we assumed they were there. Maybe they were vampires, after all ...

We survived our night in Kaycee, as you probably guessed, and continued on our journey. We turned west and drove through towns with populations of, I shit you not, 12. We took more pictures:
 Posted by Picasa
This is western Wyoming. More rocks, more canyons - it's still pretty. I also took some pictures of the sky, because the sky in Wyoming is keen:
 Posted by Picasa

Finally, we reached Cody, which is a tourist trap. We didn't stay long in Cody, but we did check out the Buffalo Bill Reservoir and the dam. It's a dam - what more can I say? But it's in the middle of some spectacular scenery:
 Posted by Picasa
And check out the leg I'm flashing! Now that's hot stuff. I also got a shot up the ravine by the dam. Very nice:
 Posted by Picasa

So that's our first forays into the West. Nothing too amazing, I'll grant you, but it's a taste. Next week we head into Grand Teton National Park. Holy cow, what a beautiful place.


If I'm depraved, what about these people?

You may think I'm depraved (see below), but that's a one line post. What about the people who took the time to set up these sites:

The Emma Watson countdown to her eighteenth birthday. Emma Watson, in case you don't know, plays Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies. If that doesn't creep you out enough, there's a Dakota Fanning countdown clock. Eeeeewwwww!

The weird thing about these things (the Olsen twins may have inspired the first one, although I'm not sure) is that the guys who set these up imply that if they can only wait until these girls are 18, they might have a chance to nail them. Isn't that right? I mean, that's the only reason to worry about whether they're 18 or not. If you think Emma Watson is hot, why do you care if she's 18 or not? You don't have a chance with her anyway. Fantasize away! It's sick, but whatever.

Man, just when I think people can't get any more fucked up, I find stuff like this. And of course I have to share!


Does this make me depraved?

Maybe it does, but let me tell you: Kim Possible is hot.

As Randal might say: "Bunch of savages in this town"¹

A few nights ago, Krys came home and said, "Where's the wreath on the garage?" I said, "I don't know." She paused and said, "Someone stole the wreath. It's not there."

I'll let that sink in, good readers. Someone stole the Christmas wreath that Krys had hung from our garage door. We have some garlands around the garage and a wreath on our front gate and garlands and a wreath around the windows to the kids' bedrooms. Krys made the stolen wreath herself the first year we were married (1994) and we've hung it outside, without incident, ever since.

Some motherfucker stole the wreath off of our garage door.

Motherfuckers. Fucking Christmas. Next year I've decided to have the most offensive Christmas and holiday decorations ever outside. If there's a CD of punk rock bands mangling Christmas carols, I will find it. If there's a Nativity scene where Mary and Joseph accidentally impale the baby Jesus on a stake, I will find it. If there are klieg lights that will light the night as bright as the day, I will find them. If there are Wise Men dressed up as the Village People, I will find them.

Motherfuckers. Merry fucking Christmas, everyone. May I be the first to tell you to look out for the goddamned thieves!²

¹ That's Randal of Clerks "fame." Poor guy can't even get a picture on IMDb!
² I'm not that bitter about the whole holiday season, really. I'm just stunned that someone would be that gauche. What a tool. I hope he or she is allergic to whatever it's made out of and dies a horrible, lesion-filled death. It's all about the Christmas spirit here, people!


It's about time to recast a holiday classic!

It's been a while since I asked you to recast a movie, but it's the Christmas season, and let me tell you, It's A Wonderful Life is just begging for a remake! Come on people, the copy writes itself:

In theaters only, Christmas 2006 ... a Jerry Bruckheimer Production ... of a Michael Bay film ... It's A Wonderful Life (in glorious Technicolor)! Starring ... ah, but that's where you good people come in.

(Okay, maybe Bay's not the best choice. By now, however, I'm sure he'll be looking to "branch out" from his chosen field of slam-bang action flicks. If he's not available because he's working on the Transformers movie - ???? - how about Tom Shadyac or Brett Ratner? But we're not choosing a director, we're choosing stars!)

Anyway, I'm not a huge fan of It's A Wonderful Life. It's all right, I suppose, but I'm just not that impressed. Maybe it's Stewart - in these kinds of roles, he always struck me as dopey. Give me The Philadelphia Story or Vertigo and I'm there. So let's just tear down a holiday classic, shall we? Modern people can make movies so much better than those yokels in the 1940s, man!

The cast of the original:
Jimmy Stewart (or "James" if he's your dad or something) as George Bailey. Poor, put-upon George Bailey. "I don't want to get married!" "I don't want to ever have lived!" "I didn't steal 8 large!" What a whinger.
 Posted by Picasa

His long-suffering wife, Mary, is played by Donna Reed. She loves him even though he's a misogynist pig. Go, Donna!
 Posted by Picasa

The "villain" of the movie is Mr. Potter, played by Lionel Barrymore. They obviously stole the idea of an evil industrialist from Matt Groening. Shouldn't he sue? The FBI apparently thought this was a Commie movie because the good capitalist is portrayed poorly. I agree. Let's hope the remake remedies this and shows Mr. Potter in his true, all-American light. Commerce is Progress, people!
 Posted by Picasa

Thomas Mitchell played Uncle Billy and Beulah Bondi played George's mother. Remember the good old days, when you could name your child Beulah and she wouldn't be teased until she developed an eating disorder? Good times. Where's a celebrity to bring back Beulah when you need it? Isn't Gwyneth Paltrow pregnant again yet?
 Posted by Picasa

Henry Travers played Clarence, the annoying angel who showed George how awful everyone's life would be if he had never existed. What a buttinsky.
 Posted by Picasa
(Note: you may not choose Morgan Freeman as Clarence. It's way too easy. Put some thought into it, people! Morgan, as is well known, will spend most of next year starring in The Electric Company Movie, returning to his roots, so he's unavailable anyway.)

Karolyn Grimes played Zuzu, one of Stewart's bratty children. And no, Dakota Fanning will not be available next year either - she's working on her own remake: The Guns of Navarone (in the David Niven role).
 Posted by Picasa

The only other major role to be filled, I think, is Harry, George's brother. He was played by Todd Karns, but I couldn't find his picture. It actually took me quite a while to find the pictures I did get, which is why I didn't post this last week. Anyway, here's that group shot from the end:
 Posted by Picasa

Like I said, I'm not the biggest fan of the movie, so I'm not sure who in the cast is all that important. Feel free to suggest other people in roles I didn't mention. Let's go, people - Jerry Bruckheimer is counting on you!