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!


Wacky events in the Congo

Saw this on The Daily Show ...

"Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft."

What a lede! The absolute best quote in the article: "But when you try to tell the victims that their penises are still there, they tell you that it's become tiny or that they've become impotent. To that I tell them, 'How do you know if you haven't gone home and tried it'," he said.

Penis theft: Is yours safe?????

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Cultural imperialism?

So, Iran is upset about imported Barbie dolls. Apparently it's upsetting their careful campaign to oppress women!

Here's what I don't understand. I don't like forcing American values and whatnot on anyone else, but if people want something, they're going to get it. If Iranians didn't want Barbie, they wouldn't smuggle them in!

Just remember: Barbie spreads democracy more effectively than George Bush does!

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Great songs, according to me (Part 37)

It's been well over two months since I posted another ten songs I think are great. I know you've been waiting for the next one! I do like posting these, but things just get in the way. Before we get to the list, let's point you to the other lists:
Parts 1-15, Parts 16-30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, and Part 36.

Let's look at the next ten!

361. Monkey Wrench (by Foo Fighters on the album The Colour And The Shape, 1997): Tom loves this album, and I can't say I disagree with him, except for maybe the extent of how superb it is. This song, which should probably be paired with "Doll," the first, rather short prelude to the album, kicks so much ass I can't believe I first heard it on an episode of Beverly Hills 90210. Yes, I really did. The pounding music is straight-forward, grab-your-collar-and-shake-you rock, and Grohl's sneering lyrics make the song a perfect kiss-off to a manipulative significant other. When the song builds to Grohl's primal scream of rage, we've crossed into rock-and-roll greatness. Scream it with me: "One last thing before I quit I never wanted any more than I could fit into my head I still remember every single word you said and all the shit that somehow went along with it still there's one thing that comforts me since I was always caged but now I'm freeeeeee ..." Chills, I tell you, I get chills.

362. A Month Of Sundays (by Don Henley on the album Building The Perfect Beast, 1984): I'm not a huge Henley fan, but this is a pretty decent album, punctuated by a few great songs. "A Month of Sundays" is a sad song about farmers and how modern life sucks, something I have usually have no patience for, but Henley's smooth California drawl manages to make it work. It romanticizes the plight of the American farmer, sure, but it stays just on the non-mawkish side of sentimentality, and so it works. Henley sells it, too, as we believe he's a put-upon old farmer rather than a spoiled rich rock star. That's always helpful. This album, unfortunately, gave us "All She Wants To Do Is Dance," but it also gave us this song, so that's a nice thing.

363. More Fool Me (by Genesis on the album Selling England By The Pound, 1973): People tend to forget that Genesis with Peter Gabriel could crank out some excellent love songs, and this is one of them (although it's Phil on lead vocals). This is a quiet song with that quirky folksy style that a lot of early Genesis has, and the lyrics are extremely bittersweet: "The day you left, I think you knew you'd not be back; well at least it would seem that way because you never said goodbye." It's a sad song full of irony, as it ends with Phil singing, "Yes, I'm sure it will work out all right."

364. Mr. Integrity (by L7 on the album Bricks Are Heavy, 1992): I'm not a big fan of this album, but a few of the tracks rock, and this is one of them. The chorus, "Don't preach to me, Mr. Integrity," is simple and effective, and Donita and the gang scorch their way through a truly venomous song about posers. I rarely listen to this album anymore, but I really dig this song.

365. Mr. Self Destruct (by Nine Inch Nails on the album The Downward Spiral, 1994): Ah, Trent. Always ready with the depressing music! In this song, the first track off what is probably his masterpiece, he brings the creepiness with aplomb: "I am the sex that you provide (and I control you)/I am the hate you try to hide (and I control you)." The hypnotic repetition of the "I am ..." theme could become annoying, but Trent's reptilian vocals never allow that, and the fuzzy music ensures that we pay attention to the lyrics. Trent can often slide to easily into self-pity and self-loathing, but this song rises above that and drills right into our brain. Good stuff.

366. Muhammad My Friend (by Tori Amos on the album Boys For Pele, 1996): If you check out the lyrics to this song, they're somewhat strange. I'm not sure why I think it's so great. The music is strong, as Tori shifts from a quiet ballad to an approximation of a volcano erupting (with her piano, which is quite a feat). I love the "chorus": "Muhammad my friend, it's time to tell the world; we both know it was a girl, back in Bethlehem." The lyrics get weird after that, and I'm not sure I understand them, but it seems like Tori is wondering why we crave religion when nature is so religious in the first place. I don't know who Muhammad is, though. Oh, my brain hurts. I don't know, I just love this song. So sue me.

367. The Musical Box (by Genesis on the album Nursery Cryme, 1971): Man, I love this song. It runs over ten minutes, but it's so tight musically that it seems to fly by. As it's early 1970s Genesis, it has a weird, almost jazzy psychedelic buzz to it, but you can hear the boys beginning to move past that 1960s crap (really, did we need another psychedelic band?) and into the sprawling epics that they are known for. This is a riff on an old Victorian story which is rather creepy, telling of a boy who ages rapidly and can't express his love/lust for the girl who killed him. Yes, it's weird. I just love the way Gabriel uses his voice as an extra instrument, creating moods of sadness, weariness, lust, and finally desperation. The songs ends wonderfully in a frenzy of desire: "Why don't you touch me, touch me, touch me, touch me now, now, now, now ..." It's astonishing to listen to.

368. Musicology (by Prince on the album Musicology, 2004): One of the more recent songs on this list (and yes, I need to add more, because it's been over three years since I made this list, and I've gotten some new music since then that would qualify, but for now, pretend it's 2005!), this song and album marked a return to form a bit for Prince after his bizarre Jehovah's Witness jazz fusion album, The Rainbow Children (man, that's a weird platter). I'm not one of those people who thinks that Prince dropped off the face of the earth after Batman in 1989 and then resurfaced in 2004, and this album is no better than, say, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, but this song gets things off to a rousing start. The lyrics are inconsequential, because as with much of Prince, it's all about the groove, and he does a great job with that. Ostensibly, this is a paean to old-school jams, but it's just an excuse for Prince to get you moving. And, like Norah says, you must "Shake your booty" when Prince fires up this song. Good stuff from the master.¹

369. Muzzle (by Smashing Pumpkins on the album Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, 1995): Billy Corgan often whines a lot, but here, it helps him. The lyrics of this song are powerful and speak of loss and a sense of disconnect from the world around you, and too often that's just annoying. It could be with Corgan, as well, but somehow his whiny tones become deeper, helped by the richness of the music, which builds steadily throughout the song. When Corgan gets to the payoff at the end, he's earned it, because he's come back around: "And the world, so hard to understand, is the world you can't live without." And the thudding bass and drums take us out.

370. My Country (by Midnight Oil on the album Earth And Sun And Moon, 1993): The finest Midnight Oil album contains many excellent songs, and this is one of them. It launches with a piano/guitar intro that drives us into Garrett's lyrics, which speak of blind patriotism and the foolishness that comes along with it. It's interesting to consider that Garrett loves Australia without thinking there are no warts to its history. This song encapsulates that, to a degree, and all he asks for is the truth. It's a powerful song on a great album.

Well, that's another ten songs in the books. I will try not to wait almost three months for the next ten. (Yes, I'm aware that most people don't miss these posts, but I like them!)

¹ Norah actually says this. Krys taught it to her. Now Mia has picked it up. See what my wife is doing to the kids? She's turning them into booty-shaking weirdos. Sigh.

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Are you eating well? You may be very sick!

I was reading in the newspaper the other day that some guy has come up with a new eating disorder: orthorexia. Yes, people who check labels, avoid junk food, and eat healthy foods may be suffering from an eating disorder.

That link takes you to the web site of Steven Bratman, who has (of course) written a book about it. I wonder if the restaurant/fast food industry financed the writing of it? He does point out that it's not necessarily eating healthy foods, but being obsessed with eating healthy foods. Still, this seems a bit silly.

So have a Snickers bar. It's good for you!



The "It" Factor

I've been watching the clusterfuck that the Suns-Spurs series has become (unless, of course, you're a San Antonio fan) and it's driving me crazy. I turned off Game 2 when the Spurs (or, as a local sports talk radio host calls them, the "Sterns") went ahead 67-63, and I was glad I did, as the deficit got worse before it got a tiny bit better. As I watched the first two games and remembered last year's clusterfuck, I wondered why the Suns, who are very talented, can't beat the frickin' Spurs. I absolutely hate the Spurs, because they cheat and get away with it, they whine to the refs after every call against them and it works, and they are dull. I used to like watching the NBA, until Detroit turned the game into a heavyweight fight in the late 1980s and then everyone started playing like thugs. A few teams have tried to get back to good basketball, and Phoenix is just the latest of those. Yet they can't beat the Spurs.

I don't know why. There's no rational explanation for it. Amaré Stoudemire, who could be the best power forward in the game, cannot be guarded. Seriously. The Spurs certainly can't guard him. If you ever get a chance to see Stoudemire, check it out, because he's amazing to watch. There's almost nothing he can't do offensively - he can even shoot from the outside and make free throws at an 80% clip. But he doesn't make any effort defensively. He could easily be half as good defensively as he is offensively, and that would be amazing. But he isn't. He doesn't make the effort. That's coaching. But it's not just that. When the Spurs need a big shot, Tim Duncan makes a three-pointer to tie Game 1. A freakin' three-pointer! When the Spurs need a defensive stop, they get it. When the Spurs go on a run, Mike D'Antoni, who is a very good offensive coach, doesn't send in one of his scrubs to foul Tony Parker hard. I'm not saying he should be dirty, but Tony Parker is getting lay-up after lay-up, and nobody wants to step in and stop him. And D'Antoni doesn't seem to want to send in somebody from his bench to simply knock Parker down a few times. Because D'Antoni doesn't use his bench. It's simply astonishing that, after last year when Stoudemire and Boris Diaw were suspended for a game against San Antonio and the Suns almost won the game before running out of gas because, yes, they have no depth, D'Antoni didn't think that this year it might be smart to give his bench some work. But he didn't, and now the Suns are down 0-2.

This isn't really about the Suns, however. Well, it sort of is, but it's more about what makes a team a champion. It's something completely intangible. It's not exactly luck, although that's a part of it. It's not exactly hard work, either, although that's a big part of it. It's a weird combination of those two things and other things, and some very good teams in the past simply haven't had it. Unfortunately, many of the teams I have liked don't have it. Mainly because they play in Philadelphia.

The last team I have rooted for that had the combination of extraordinary talent and whatever extra you need to win a championship was ... the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers. Yeah, that's pretty sad. They're the last professional team from Philly to win a major championship (Villanova won the NCAA Tournament in 1985, and the Philadelphia Stars, the USFL team, won in 1984), and they had it. The Sixers of the late 1970s were very talented, but they kept losing in the Finals. In 1977 they won the first two games before losing four in a row to Portland. In 1980 a freakin' rookie point guard, some dude named Earvin Johnson, played center in the deciding game and lit them up as the Lakers beat them. But the talent was there. But they didn't have it. Then they got Moses Malone. Malone gave them what they were lacking: someone who wouldn't take shit from other teams. In the 1983 playoffs, the went 12-1, sweeping the Lakers in the Finals. What a glorious playoff run.

Toughness isn't it, though, or at least not all of it. For the Sixers, it was. For the Suns, it might be, and that's why they added Shaquille O'Neal. But he's not as tough as he used to be, and even when he's playing tough, they're still lacking something. Anyway, since then, I have fallen for teams that simply didn't have an intangible to get that ring. The Eagles of the late 1980s/early 1990s were ferocious on defense and had the amazing Randall Cunningham at quarterback. Yet they couldn't get over the hump. In 1991 Cunningham got injured in the first game of the season. The defense was one of the few that finished first against the run and against the pass, but without Cunningham, they didn't make the playoffs (despite finishing 10-6). Two years later Cunningham got hurt again and they missed the playoffs. Recently, of course, the Eagles have been very good, but they haven't won the Super Bowl. They were clearly the better team in 2002 and 2003, but they lost the NFC Championship Game at home. In 2004, they finally made it to the Super Bowl, but they lost to a team that clearly has it, the New England Cheaters ("it" in this case being high-tech espionage). Now, the window for Donovan McNabb appears to have closed. I hope not.

Meanwhile, the Phillies haven't had it for years. Even in 1993, when they won the pennant, it was clear they were complete underdogs, and their loss in the World Series, while extremely painful (the 15-14 loss when the Phillies had a 14-9 lead late; the last Mitch Williams pitch), was not as horrifying as some of the Eagles' losses, because I didn't expect much. They had it in 1980, the year they won their only World Series. But that was a long time ago.

The 76ers had it in 2001, when Larry Brown coached 'em up and Allen Iverson won the MVP, but they were clearly not as talented as Los Angeles, and Iverson could only will them to a win in the first game of the Finals before they lost four straight. But then there are the other basketball teams I've enjoyed. When I lived in Portland, I followed the Trail Blazers. Portland in the late 1990s had a very good team. In 2000, they led the Lakers in Los Angeles by 15 points in the fourth quarter, but let it go. They just didn't have it. And now I'm in Phoenix, where they Suns obviously don't have it. Another Phoenix team, the Diamondbacks, definitely had it in 2001, when they ended the Yankees' dynasty. They had plenty of talent, but when Randy Johnson came out of the bullpen in Game 7 that year, you just knew they were going to win, even though they were losing and had to face Mariano Rivera. Johnson and Schilling were just that good that year.

It's really annoying, because I've never been a bandwagon jumper. I like the teams I grew up with. I liked the Trail Blazers because I lived in Portland, and I like the Suns because I live here, and I also love the style they play. So I can't just say "Well, I'm a Spurs fan," and then rejoice when they win. It just wouldn't work. I'm a Philadelphia fan until I die, which means I'll probably be stuck with teams that suck or are good enough to make the playoffs and possibly play for a championship, but never get over the hump. It's just like Philadelphia itself - it doesn't have it anymore, and that's just too bad.

So what do you do when you don't have it? Well, owners and general managers don't like to hear this, but you have to blow things up. My father is frustrated with Andy Reid because he just doesn't seem to be a championship coach. He's a very good coach, don't get me wrong, but he just doesn't seem to be able to make that crucial adjustment that allows his team to go further. I was hoping the Eagles would keep McNabb and get rid of Reid after last season, but it looks like they're keeping both. With regard to the Suns, I think Steve Kerr, the GM, needs to have a chat with Mike D'Antoni this summer. He needs to tell him that they'll have Shaq for the full season next year, but Steve Nash is getting old and their window is closing (if it hasn't already closed). He also needs to tell him that there's a reason they have 13 players on the roster, and D'Antoni needs to play them. D. J. Strawberry (Darryl's kid) is a rookie this year, and although he's very raw, especially on offense, he's very long and plays defense really hard. Why can't he get a few minutes in this playoff series to see if he could slow Manu Ginobili down? He doesn't need to score, after all. He just needs to play defense. But he rarely played during the season, so D'Antoni doesn't trust him. Kerr needs to step in, because D'Antoni is never going to change unless he's forced to. I don't know if it will work, but it couldn't hurt. It would keep Nash and O'Neal fresh, at least.

I don't think it will work, however. Most of time, when you realize the team just doesn't have it, they need to go through a rebuilding phase. The Lakers had it early in the century, but Kobe destroyed it. Ironically, Kobe has it, but the talent around him wasn't very good for a few years. Now they have talent, and they look like a championship team. The Eagles are still a decent team, but they need a shake-up, and I think it's only going to come if they get rid of Reid. The Suns might need to ditch D'Antoni. It's unfortunate, but that's the way it is.

The Suns can still win this series. They need some luck, some calls to go their way, and the Spurs to screw up just a little bit. They're close, but they don't have it. Unless the Spurs give it up, they're done. And the NBA will once again be a little more boring. Stupid Spurs!!!!!!

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What I've been reading

Jeeves and the Tie that Binds by P. G. Wodehouse. 189 pages, 1971, Simon and Schuster.

This is the first Wodehouse book I've ever read, and I wouldn't have ever read it if I hadn't borrowed this book from someone with whom I no longer speak and simply forgot to return it. It came time for me to read it, though (I read my books in alphabetical order by author - most of the time - and I'm on the "W"s), so I plopped down and zipped through it. It clocks in at less than 200 pages, after all, and Wodehouse's style is extremely breezy and fast.

It's a fun book, but I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. This is one of Wodehouse's last books (he died in 1975), and maybe he had gotten so good at the "Jeeves" stories that he mailed this one in. That's a bit harsh, I guess - for what it wants to be, it's a nice little read. I zipped through it, laughed a few times, and enjoyed the strength of the book - the affectionate relationship between Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, who always pulls Bertie's fat out of the fire. The plot of the book is largely inconsequential - it involves a book in which butlers are supposed to write about their employers, which is stolen and can cause some embarrassment to Bertie and one of his friends if it comes out into the open. There's also a political campaign, and Bertie finds himself almost engaged a few times to women he does not want to be engaged to, and it all works out in the end. It's a clever enough plot, but not anything to get worked up about.

Mainly, the charm of the "Jeeves" stories seems to come from the banter of the characters. Bertie is supposed to be a bit dim, and he is, and Jeeves is a magic valet who solves every problem, no matter how intractable. He is, after all, Super-Butler. There are some odd things about the tone of the book - it's obviously set in a "modern" era, as there are cars, and a brief search shows that this is supposed to be 1930s England. It reads, however, very Wildean, as if this was some kind of Edwardian drawing-room comedy. It's a weird dissonance between the way the people act, which is from an earlier age, and the actual time frame. Perhaps that's what Wodehouse was trying for; I haven't read enough to know. But it's weird.

The biggest problem with the book in terms of plot is that because Wooster narrates, we often miss Jeeves at work. Again, I suppose that's part of the point, but when the problems that the principals face in this book are at their most binding, Bertie decides he needs to flee to London for a day. When he returns, Jeeves has solved everything, and we only find out what happened second hand. If you've seen No Country for Old Men, you know one of the criticism levelled at it is that we don't see the final deadly confrontation. This is similar in that we only hear about the solutions Jeeves comes up with second-hand. It's odd.

Despite that, this is a charming book. Although I linked to a place where you can buy this, I would recommend getting it out of the library. It's not something that's going to change your life, and it's somewhat forgettable (which is why I wouldn't buy it). But it's a nice book for an afternoon read or two. It's far more amusing than a lot of "summer" books that you're supposed to take to the beach.

Everyone's favorite stuffed bull, Bully, does a far better job with Wodehouse than I do. Check out his posts here! I'll probably try to find some more Wodehouse eventually. He's fun to read.

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Edward Lorenz has died

Who the hell is Edward Lorenz, you might ask? Jeez, he's just the father of chaos theory, people! Yes, Lorenz noticed that small changes in a system can lead to wildly divergent results, which is technically called "sensitive dependence on initial conditions" but is usually called "the butterfly effect," because Lorenz predicted that Ashton Kutcher could change the future by changing one small thing in the past. Wait, didn't he? Oh, I guess not. Lorenz revolutionized meteorology in the 1960s, and his idea of "deterministic chaos" spread to other sciences and became one of the most important new ideas in science. Chaos theory is why those seven-day forecasts on television are complete and utter bullshit. He devised Lorenz attractors, which I don't understand but which are pretty danged cool-looking:

Lorenz never won a Nobel Prize, because there's no Nobel for meteorology (which screws my sister out of a chance!), but he's still a giant in the scientific community. If you want to learn more about chaos, James Gleick's Chaos: Making a New Science is a very good and very accessible introduction to the field, even though it's 20 years old.

Lorenz was 90. Must be a nice life, working away at MIT doing things you love.

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Directing you elsewhere

Even though I encourage everyone to read my other blog, I really encourage you to read today's post. It's my annual accounting of how Mia's doing, as today is the fifth anniversary of her car accident. So head on over and check it out!


"Thank you, Your Holiness. Awesome speech."

That's what our president said to Pope Benedict XVI after his words at the White House a few days ago. I hope he was using "awesome" in its most specific form, as in something that inspires awe, but somehow I think he meant it in its colloquial form, as in "way cool."

January can't come soon enough, if you ask me.

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This is fairly awesome

Remember, kids: problems are never solved by punching people in the chin! But it's still fun to watch, especially when it's manly Australian Rules Football players doing the punching:

It's the Sydney Swans versus the West Coast Eagles, by the way. Man, I always knew swans were mean.

I also like Barry Hall's "Who, me?" stance immediately after bopping the guy. It's like he plays for the San Antonio Spurs!

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It begins ...

Krys came home last night and turned on the air conditioning. Sigh. 14 April, and we're turning on the AC. Yes, the long slow journey to horrific temperatures has begun. The mercury hit 90 on Sunday, and there's no turning back!

(Yes, I know I complain about the weather a lot. Sorry. I try to keep the complaints short!)

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Alicia Keys needs to shut up

It has been quite some time since I read about a celebrity who needs to shut up, but Alicia Keys has come to the rescue! In an interview with Blender magazine, Keys apparently says that Gangsta rap was a ploy to convince black people to kill each other and that it didn't actually exist, as well as opining that the feud between Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. was "fueled by the government and the media, to stop another great black leader from existing." Presumably that "great black leader" was Tupac, although why couldn't it have been Biggie?

Now, I'm sure Ms. Keys is a wonderful person, and she made such a cute couple with Common in Smokin' Aces, but does she really believe that? I'll have to ask Ice Cube if "Fuck tha Police" was just a ploy to convince black people to kill each other. I wonder what he would say.

You're free to exercise your first amendment rights, Ms. Keys, but in this case, I think you should just shut up.

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Padlocking clothing in Indonesia

I saw this story: An Indonesian town is asking its masseuses to padlock their skirts and pants to make it clear that prostitution is not an option. Well, that's weird. The women's affair minister in Indonesia says it's not the right way to prevent promiscuity, as it implies that the women in the wrong. I agree with her. This is weird. How about a sign in the window saying you can't buy sex here? Wouldn't that be easier? Call me silly, I guess. Anyway, how does one padlock a skirt? What a strange story.

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Top Ten Day: My favorite crushes

Roger, ripping off an unnamed blogger, published his list of famous people on whom he had crushes, and challenged us to do the same, either by leaving comments or posting about it on our own blogs. As I have a blog and shamelessly rip off others' topics all the time (well, not all the time, but I'm not above it!), I thought I would take him up on his challenge here. These are, of course, not girls from school or anything, because that would be meaningless to you. No, as Roger's is, these are famous people I dug, for whatever reason. Let's get to the list, as we peer deep inside Greg's depraved mind!

1. Daisy Duke (Catherine Bach), 1979-80. I watched The Dukes of Hazzard for most of its time on television, but that first year was dynamite, especially when Daisy showed up. Dang, she was a hottie. My eight-year-old brain couldn't quite process it. I wasn't terribly interested in girls until much later in my life, because I was still a rough-and-tumble boy, but Daisy showed me that when I became interested, there would be something nice to look forward to!

2. Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers), c. 1980. Loni Anderson was the sexpot on WKRP in Cincinnati, but come on - Bailey was super-sexy. She was smart, sarcastic, and funny. Yes, Jennifer (Loni Anderson) was smarter than most of the people at the station, but her character always felt a bit fake, whereas you could easily imagine knowing someone like Bailey. And whenever she took those glasses off - hubba-hubba! Like Daisy Duke, she was one of those women who made me realize there was a lot more going on with girls than I suspected, even though it would be years before I explored that. I read on this site that Smithers was in a pretty serious car accident last September. That sucks. I haven't read anything about her recovery, except that as of December, she had a lot of broken bones and still couldn't walk. Send good thoughts her way!

(This is a pretty cool picture. Smithers was, oddly enough, on the cover of Newsweek in 1966, when she was 17. What a weird thing.)

3. Sarah Purcell, early 1980s. Ms. Purcell is someone that is probably far-from-crushworthy, but I don't care! I loved watching Real People back in the early Eighties, as it was funny, featured interesting people, and had very funny hosts, including Fred Willard. But Sarah was the hottie on the show. Considering she's only five years younger than my mother, maybe I had some Oedipal issues I was working out back then. Many were the nights when I wished I had Sarah Purcell and Fred Willard as my parents! And Peter Billingsley could be my cool older brother (he's almost exactly a month older than I am), with Byron Allen the non-Caucasian uncle from one of my grandfather's many dalliances! Oh, the joy! (Oh, I'm kidding. My parents are awesome. But I did have a big crush on Sarah Purcell. About that I will not kid!) (And no, I couldn't find a better picture of her. She's just pimpin' fine early Eighties products!)

4. Phoebe Cates, 1982. Any straight male under the age of 30 (at the time) who saw Fast Times at Ridgemont High knows why:

Dang. You know we're all about high-brow entertainment around here! I still liked her in the two Gremlins movies (especially the second one), but this moment is iconic.

5. Jennifer Jason Leigh, 1982-1994. I absolutely adore Jennifer Jason Leigh, and think it's a tragedy of epic proportions that she hasn't won an Academy Award yet (and Big Lips, among others, has). Leigh, of course, burst onto the scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, where she played the innocent Stacy to Phoebe Cates' more worldly Linda, and she quickly put together an amazing résumé: Flesh + Blood, The Hitcher, Miami Blues, Backdraft (well, I liked it, and she was damned sexy in it), Rush, Short Cuts, The Hudsucker Proxy, and Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. I like that movie, but that was about the time my crush started to fade. I still love her as an actress, and she's very good in Dolores Claiborne and eXistenZ, but she faded out of view for a while in the new century, and I was depressed that she didn't have a bigger role in Road to Perdition. And, of course, I don't see many movies these days. She seems to be working a bit more recently, so maybe someone will give her a role that will finally win her an Oscar.

6. Keanu Reeves, 1989-1999. I'm not sure why people denigrate Keanu so much. I'm the first to admit that he's not the greatest actor, but he chooses smart roles and never embarrasses himself. I first started getting a man-crush on him when I saw Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, which is still a comedic classic. I eventually watched his seminal film role in River's Edge, which is an absolutely brilliant movie. He followed Bill and Ted's with Parenthood, in which he's fantastic, and I Love You to Death, which is an underrated comedy, and after Point Break and Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (neither of which is all that great, although the sequel is mostly fun), he was astounding in My Own Private Idaho, showing how good he could be. He shows up in movies by great directors (not necessarily great movies, but by great directors), and he even showed he could do action well in Speed (after doing it poorly in Point Break). Of course, he had a small career renaissance in 1999 with The Matrix, and he did a pretty good job in Constantine. Keanu is a far better actor than he gets credit for, and he's one of my two man-crushes on this list.

7. Sherilyn Fenn, 1990-93. Man, Sherilyn Fenn should have been a classic movie star. She's not the best actress, but she's not the worst, either, and she has such classic movie star looks. It's like she was born about 50 years too late - if she had been an actress in the 1940s or '50s, she would have been huge. I never watched Twin Peaks (I know, shocking), but she was a pin-up icon for a while in the early Nineties, and I actually bought the issue of Playboy in which she posed. I still have not seen Two Moon Junction (Krys has, weirdly enough), but I have seen Meridian, which is a truly awful movie. I saw Boxing Helena, but by that time I had moved on in my crushes. She's still working relatively steadily, and she has a MySpace page (if it's really hers), so if you too had a crush on Sherilyn Fenn, go check her out! And really, who could forget her in Just One of the Guys? What a classic that was!

8. Emma Thompson, c. 1991-1994. I still love Emma Thompson as an actress (she was quite good in Stranger Than Fiction, and I have actually watched good swaths of Nanny McPhee because she's in it), but my crush phase lasted only briefly, from the time I first saw her in Dead Again (I later saw Henry V, but not when it was first released, so it doesn't count), which is an extremely underrated murder mystery, until her brilliant turn in In the Name of the Father, one of the few movies that makes me cry. In that same year she made Much Ado About Nothing, in which she is absolutely gorgeous. In the late Nineties she was under the radar a bit, but she seems to be coming back strong recently. My crush will not return, but I'm always happy to see her working.

9. Michelle Yeoh, 1993-2000. I first saw Michelle Yeoh in the Jackie Chan vehicle Supercop, which came out here in 1993 (and stars another actress I had a crush on, Maggie Cheung) and is a real blast. Yeoh is excellent, fighting and flirting (a bit) with Chan and almost stealing the movie. She was the best part of Tomorrow Never Dies, which is a fairly decent addition to the Bond legacy, and of course, she was brilliant in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which is an excellent movie. She's worked since then, but I've been missing her movies, as I rarely see movies anymore, so my ardor for her has cooled. I still think she's awesome, though, and probably will be the only reason to see the third Mummy movie.

10. Brad Pitt, 1995-2001. Ah, my second man-crush. I first saw Pitt in Thelma & Louise, but he didn't really do it for me. Luckily, my first time seeing him was NOT Cool World, because that movie is, well, awful. Then, I saw (unfortunately), Interview With the Vampire, but I still didn't have much interest in him (and I still haven't seen A River Runs Through It). If I had seen Legends of the Fall in the theater (instead of a few years later), that might have done it, but my crush really started with Seven. He was excellent in that, and then, a few months later, he was hilariously disturbing in 12 Monkeys. That was it: I had a crush. Of course, it reached its peak in 1999, when Fight Club came out. It's one of my favorite movies, and everyone in it is brilliant. I also would love to have Pitt's wardrobe from the movie, although I'm not cool enough to pull it off. After that, he was very funny in Snatch, the best thing about The Mexican, very good in Spy Game, and hysterical in that episode of Friends. Then, of course, he was in Ocean's Eleven, where once again I would love his wardrobe but couldn't pull it off. Plus, he got to say, "I had never been to Belize" (trust me, it's a funny line). Since then, I have seen fewer movies, he got involved with Big Lips, and his movies haven't been as excellent (although he's quite good in Babel). I've heard his turn as Jesse James is pretty good, and I still like seeing his movies, but I think my crush is over. So sad!

Well, those are my ten favorite crushes. I've had others (I mentioned Maggie Cheung, for instance), but they've either been fleeting or not as intense. One retroactive one I've had is on Daniela Bianchi, because she was a Bond girl before I was born, so I can't really count her. But it gives me an excuse to post a picture of her. Yowza!

What about my vast readership? Any celebrity crushes you care to share with us?

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Teenagers need to be locked up until they turn 20

Well, this is just a horrible story. Six female cheerleaders and two male "lookouts" have been arrested in Florida for beating another cheerleader after some trash-talking on MySpace escalated. What's worse is that the girls filmed this so they could share it with their friends. This is sad on so many levels, from the fact that the girls don't think they did anything wrong to the fact that they probably learned this from adults. You can find part of the video of the beating on YouTube, but I'm not going to post it here. It's kind of disturbing, actually. There are videos at the newspaper site, too. I wish I could say this is surprising, but it's really not. Man, people suck sometimes.

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Really? We're angry about this?

People have got all bent out of shape about an Absolut ad. Now, they're crazy conservatives who have called for a boycott on Michelle Malkin's web site, but still, they're presumably regular people, with jobs and spouses and children and, you know, things to do. Yet they're getting pissy about an advertisement, because it ... well, I'm not really sure why they're pissed. It has something to do with those brown people coming up here, trimming our lawns and harvesting our oranges and stealing our white women (and, presumably, Asian immigrant women)! Damn them! I'm not quite sure how a vodka company contributes to all those swarthy, sweaty people flooding into our pure, virginal land, but I'm sure if you head on over to Malkin's site she can explain it much better than I can. Here's the offending ad, by the way:

You know, it's a historical map, people. Yes, I can see that people would be angry because it claims that in a "perfect" world, all of that would still be Mexico, but you know what, conservatives? You're still grumpy that we don't have Cuba under our little thumb. It's kind of a right of people to bitch about land lost in a war. I mean, it's a vodka ad. Lighten up, conservatives!

Of course, if there's someone somewhere threatening to have fun, Christians will be there to shut it down! A Christian radio network is grumpy about "Wacky Week" at an elementary school in Reedsburg, Wisconsin. The crime? They suggested that the kids dress up, either as senior citizens or - wait for it - the opposite sex. You know that once a boy puts on a dress, he immediately becomes gay! The opposition to this was spearheaded by Jim Schneider, the program director, who says that the school district is striking at the heart and core of Biblical values. The principal says they've never had a problem, the day went off without a hitch, and they'll do it again. Good for her! Aren't there, you know, real problems in the world for Christians to tackle? Shouldn't they be writing to the president to protest his support of China? The last time I checked, China was doing worse things to Christians than a little "cross-dressing."

Sheesh. People have way too much time on their hands. Yes, the irony of a blogger pointing this out doesn't escape me. Still, at least I use my idle time to write about comic books and my favorite songs. That's constructive!

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Holy crap

"Holy," indeed. The picture accompanying this story isn't horrific, but it is rather freaky. Just to warn you.



Second Amendment - good; First Amendment - bad!

Republicans get into a lather whenever someone dares to suggest we might need restrictions on gun ownership, citing the Second Amendment as Holy Writ. Hey, that's cool - I think we need restrictions on gun ownership, but strict constitutionalists certainly have a point. I'm not sure how Representative Warde Nichols, a Republican from Gilbert, Arizona, feels about the Second Amendment, but he certainly doesn't think much of the First. Nichols has introduced House Bill 2660, which will allow those who create or sell material that causes someone to commit a serious crime to be held liable. Yes, it makes "the video game made me bludgeon my mother with a hammer" a valid defense.

Bookstores, news organizations, and other businesses, not surprisingly, are vehemently opposed to this bill. Nichols claims that the bill is not going after "your pornography" - presumably "okay" porn like Playboy - and that it would only go after the really horrible stuff. But, of course, nothing in this bill defines what would be really horrible. Plus, who's to say what a judge would define as "cause"? Opponents say it's far too broad, and it seems to be. But who cares, right? As long as we can get rid of really offensive material!

I find it ironic that a Republican has introduced this. Conservatives always say that liberals are enacting "politically correct" speech codes in college campuses across the country, but none of those were created by state legislatures. Plus, Republicans are always saying that criminals need to take responsibility for their actions and that even if someone steals bread to feed his family, it's still a crime and he should serve fifteen years in prison! Well, now they're giving criminals a built-in excuse. It would make me chuckle if it weren't so deadly serious.

The bill has already passed the House and was debated in the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Jesus, I hope the Arizona senators have more sense than the idiots in the House. Talk about a horrible idea. I'm just glad that Republicans are always looking out for us. I mean, just thinking about the fact that American Idol is so popular makes me want to kill someone! Who can I sue?

[UPDATE: The Senate Judiciary Committee threw this out, which was nice. They said it was far too broad. Nichols promises to retool it and bring it back. Our tax dollars at work! Well, mine. Not yours, unless you live in Arizona.]

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What I've been reading

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883 by Simon Winchester. 416 pages, 2003, HarperCollins.

I read one of Winchester's books (The Professor and the Madman) a while back and enjoyed it, and I've always been fascinated with Krakatoa, so getting this book was a no-brainer. Winchester is a very good writer; he keeps things lively and engaging while going over a ton of information, and although I don't know enough to know if he's getting all the facts right, his bibliography is quite extensive and I haven't seen anyone challenging his conclusions. It's a fascinating book about a horrific event that, Winchester argues, was more helpful to our understanding of how the world works that it might seem, and also may have sped up the independence movement in Indonesia.

Winchester circles around the eruption, as he goes over the long history of the Dutch in the East Indies and their government in Batavia, which is now the city called Jakarta. The Dutch empire was a weird entity, and Indonesia, their crown jewel, was a major entrepôt for them. We then jump to the history of geology, as scientists discover such strange anomalies as the Wallace Line, named for biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, who discovered something odd in Indonesia: in the western half of the archipelago, the flora and fauna was distinctly Asian, while to the east, the plants and animals were Australian. Wallace was one of the first to realize that this was because the continents were once further away from each other, but in his time, he was excoriated for his beliefs. Winchester takes us into the twentieth century and the development of the continental drift theory and plate tectonics, which finally redeemed Wallace (but not until the mid-1960s, when the theory was finally accepted). Winchester brings up things that are amazingly apparent today, like the creation of the Hawaiian Islands and the way South America and Africa fit together, but blinded scientists for decades, mostly because they were Christians and couldn't conceive of a world that changed, because that's not how God made it (to be fair, Winchester doesn't belabor this point; it's my interpretation). Winchester's chapters on geology are detailed but not confusing; he goes over the research well and takes us back to Krakatoa, showing how this volcano could have exploded so violently - it was a combination of location on the border of two plates, but also in a spot where it was being squeezed between the two islands of Sumatra and Java, which created even greater pressure.

The longest chapter in the book, not surprisingly, is about the eruption itself. Krakatoa began to rumble in May 1883, and Winchester uses the many eyewitness accounts of the minor eruptions throughout the next months. Throughout Sunday, 26 August, the eruptions got more and more intense, until the mountain exploded at 10.02 a.m. on Monday, 27 August. Winchester not only goes over the astonishing statistics associated with the explosion, but provides a nice context to them as well. The facts are quite amazing: a boat lifted by the tsunami and deposited two miles up a Sumatran river; the explosion heard 3000 miles away; the sound wave traveling seven times around the planet. His account, surprisingly, is remarkably bloodless: he tells us that 30,000 people died, but there are few gruesome stories, possibly because most of the dead were washed out to sea. The one horrific detail he adds is that corpses embedded in pumice arrived on beaches for weeks after the explosion, but that's mentioned almost in passing. It's not that I wanted gruesome details, because it would trivialize the book, but it's odd that they're missing. Again, perhaps there just weren't any.

Winchester explains how Krakatoa vanished and then how, in the past century, it has been reborn. There's a new island at the location, and it's not terribly stable. Winchester's final chapter takes him to the island, and he does another good job showing how life has returned to Anak Krakatoa - "son of Krakatoa" - and how it has given biologists a living laboratory to study. He also goes into the most controversial part of his thesis. In the aftermath of the explosion, he argues, militant Islam grew in strength in the country. Fundamental Muslims in the latter half of the nineteenth century argued that the end of the world was coming, and this led to, among other things, the Mahdist movement in Sudan. It also led to, he argues, the fomenting of revolution in Indonesia. One of the signs of the end was an eruption of apocalyptic proportions, and radical clerics used it to preach rebellion. There was an uprising against the Dutch in 1889, but Winchester stretches the connection a bit. Luckily, he doesn't really push it too much. It's an intriguing idea, but I'm not sure if there's enough for Winchester to make his case. I wonder if someone else wants to pick up the ball and run with it!

Even with that odd idea, Winchester writes confidently and forcefully, and he does a very good job bringing in his own experiences to help personalize the story. It's a broad-reaching book, and Winchester is on top of everything and makes sure we can keep up. It's a fascinating book about one of the most traumatic events in recent history, and Winchester does an excellent job with it. Even if you don't care about mountains blowing up, I still recommend this book. But who doesn't love mountains blowing up?

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Gots to get your tickets now

Man oh man, this is totally the greatest news EVER! I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait!!!!!!! I CANNOT WAIT!!!!!!!

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Spring in the Basin

You know, I whine a lot about life here in Hell. Everyone says the weather is "perfect," but it rarely is. It's either too hot, from about May through early November, or oddly cold. What I mean by that is that in December and January, when the temperature is very nice and I get to wear jeans, the sun is still out and when I drive in my car it beats down on my legs and makes me hot. Yes, I'm being petulant, but it's still weird. However, for about two months, in February and March, it's spring here in the desert, and it's quite nice (although it hit 90 last week a couple of times). In January we get some rain, which the desert soaks up, and the desert blooms! It blooms! There's green on the hills, there are birds everywhere, and all around my neighborhood, flowers show up and relieve me of my depression of living in this pit.

Every day I like to take the kids for a walk around the block. Mia loves strolling around, and it's always good for Norah to get out and about. She loves walking through the yards of our neighbors, jumping off short walls, smelling the flowers, feeling the spongy grass (yes, many people have grass in the neighborhood, despite the fact that we live in a freakin' desert), and having a grand old time. It's also, I suppose, quite healthy for us all! I'm trying very hard to keep Norah active, and this is one way. We rarely go too far from our house, but it's still fun. As we cruise along, Mia checks things out, Norah tells us where the moon is (when we can see it), and for the past two months at least, we've been looking at the flowers. Krys said the nice yellow ones are Mexican poppies, but other than that, I have no idea what these flowers are called. I'm no botanist! I suppose one day I'll have to sit down with Norah and figure out what these are called. Until then, I'll just enjoy looking at them.

Of course, very soon the sun will blast these fragile blossoms into oblivion, and that's too bad. Soon, whatever precipitation we received this winter will have been soaked into the harsh ground or evaporated, the mercury will hit triple digits, and the plants and humans alike will be affected by that wonderful lassitude that makes living in Hell so horrific. But at least we have a few months to enjoy the nice weather while the Northeast digs itself out of the snow that dumps on it quite often. But who doesn't love snow?

Anyway, here are some more pictures of flowers. Don't they just put you in a nice, calm mood?

That last one, of course, is Norah, who likes to get up close and personal with the flowers.

Enjoy the pictures - it's the last time this year the Basin will be attractive!

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