Sunday, February 28, 2010
Got 420.000 matches and some itty-bitty wooden blocks? Three years of spare time? Go make a model of Minas Tirith, Tolkien's City of Kings.
Or bigger yet -- 602,000 matches -- Hogwarts ...
Another wood sculpture by Patrick Acton -- check him out.
I got your Leggos right here ...
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Big earthquake in Chile, 8.8, major devastation, still counting the dead, though it doesn't look as if it will be anywhere near the destruction in Haiti.
Friday, February 26, 2010
There are times when you really hope that karma is an operating system -- that what goes around comes around; as you sow, so shall you reap. It's an elegant notion, that if you screw somebody over, eventually you will get yours -- if not this life, then the next ...
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
At SeaWorld in Orlando, an orca, aka Killer Whale, killed its trainer in front of an audience who paid to watch the show.
So I reached into my wallet for my credit card today and lo! it was gone.
Monday, February 22, 2010
There are three kinds of lies, according to Mark Twain, quoting Disraeli -- lies, damned lies, and statistics ...
Saturday, February 20, 2010
What with the Olympic ice dancers and all, I was reminded of my youth, when we roller skated.
There weren't any ice rinks in Louisiana back in the day, though they did build one when I was about sixteen or so.
Ice skating and roller skating aren't the same. Fall down on the hardwood, you get bruised. Fall down on the ice, you get cold, wet, and bruised.
I was a pretty good rink skater, back in the clay-wheels era -- my parents did it, they had their own skates, so we learned early. As a teenager, taking a date to Leo's Roller Rink, (photos above by Colleen Kane, which is where both links in this sentence go) or just cruising the place was considered cool enough that we did it. I could skate backwards, and while I never got to the toe-loop-axel-jumping stage, I could sometimes manage a whole session without falling down. For a while, I could wear my father's skates, until my feet grew too big.
(Leo's is still in B.R., though moved to a bigger location, and now features ice skating, as well. Olympic-sized ice rink, and the largest roller skating floor in the country.)
The history of roller skates has some fun stuff in it. Somewhere, I recall seeing a video of switchboard supervisors skating up and down behind a row of telephone switchboard operators, back when phone calls were connected manually. And who can forget the carhops of the late 1950's and early 60's who skated out to deliver malts, burgers, and fries on trays that hung onto the outside of your car window?
Ah, the good old days ...
Friday, February 19, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Got a note from a newbie writer who is at the stage of sending stuff out and collecting rejections. He has gotten a few. How, he said, do you deal with that? Don't you get depressed when that happens?
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Esquire has done a piece on Roger Ebert, who was half of the team that defined the TV movie critic genre -- Siskel and Ebert: At the Movies.
Ebert knows from bad movies -- he wrote the Russ Meyer picture, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which was supposed to be a spoof of Valley of the Dolls, but which was about as silly and unintentionally-funny as anything ever put on the screen, and rated X (later NC-17.) My wife and I saw it in a sleazy downtown L.A. theater on a movie-crawl early one morning, in a place where the cigarette smoke was so thick you could barely see the screen, must have been about 1970. There's a scene at the end that we use as part of our personal shorthand -- "I can walk!" -- would have had me rolling on the floor, save how utterly gross that floor was. Become a cult classic, ala The Rocky Horror Picture Show ...
From the wiki:
Ebert and Meyer also made Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens, Up!, and others, and were involved in the ill-fated Sex Pistols movie Who Killed Bambi?
It's a sad, touching article, this piece on Ebert. It may disturb you to read it, and to see the photograph accompanying it. But you ought to read it anyway.
Gene Siskel passed away from brain cancer some years ago, and Roger Ebert, who also developed thyroid cancer around the same time, seem to beat that and get back to work.
The surgeons got it all. But it came back in his salivary glands. They went back in.
Complications with the surgeries eventually cost him most of his lower jaw. He can no longer eat, drink, or speak, being fed through a tube, though he still writes.
People forget that he won a Pulitzer for his writing before he became famous as a TV critic.
He wrote, among others, a book, Your Movie Sucks, and there's a funny story in it, based on his criticism of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. I dunno if you remember that one -- surely it was on all the top ten lists? -- but Ebert's review is hilarious, read it here.
Gigolo starred Rob Schneider, (who got a Razzie nomination in 2000 but lost to Jar-Jar Binks). Rob didn't take well to the lambasting -- much justified -- the movie got, so he lashed out at the critics. Took one of them to task for being a no-talent hack who didn't win a Pulitzer, yadda-yadda.
I am less than sanguine about critics myself, but I learned that it's not wise to argue with the man who controls the microphone ...
So Schneider dumps all over a Los Angeles critic, at which point Ebert steps up. The last line of which is:
"As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."
Hang in there, Roger.
Interesting article on the boy pharaoh and what the current scientific view is of what did him in.
Here, but if you don't click on links, basically he was a sickly lad, had some congenital defects -- they reckon his parents were brother and sister, which was how it was done in Egyptian god-king circles. These inbred problems included a cleft-palate and clubfoot, some circulatory disorders, and they think he probably fell and broke his thigh, then died of complications, probably infection, which wasn't helped by him having malaria.
Amazing what science can determine about a guy dead more than three thousand three hundred years gone, ain't it?
(If you were that boy and you believed in Auntie's predictions, you would probably have thought yourself bulletproof. According to the story, he did go off to war and returned home alive and well.)
(In the south, there are large garden and woods arachnids that are called "writing spiders," from the way they spin, and the story is that if you annoy them, they will write your name in their web and cause you all manner of bad fortune. Big, colorful suckers, these eight-leggers, and save for the heavier parts of the web that are the "letters," the rest of the web can be almost invisible. On a cool morning when you are tromping around in the woods hunting, there is a certain visceral clutch when you suddenly feel this invisible web on your face as you blunder through one. This is followed by a quick hopping about and slapping at one's head to brush the potential hitchhiker off you PDQ. The critters are fairly harmless, but the idea of a big ole spider crawling down the back of my neck certainly used to give me pause ...)
In that notebook, I also came across this:
This is ostensibly a bank of the United States 1000-share note from 1840, and according to my father, was found in my grandfather's personal effects after he passed away. My father thought it was probably valuable, but he hadn't ever looked to see. He gave it to me, and I checked it out.
It's a fake -- a replica that was apparently given away in cereal boxes in the mid 1960's ...
Sunday, February 14, 2010
My wife, who is an excellent cook in general and a particularly outstanding baker, made an Italian bread for me for Valentine's Day: Chocolate Walnut. It's not sweet, not a cake, but a dense, chewy dark loaf that looks like rye but has a zing to it.
Friday, February 12, 2010
I come from a kind of musical family -- my father was a horn player in college and later did pick- up gigs on weekends -- he favored Big Band Swing. He tried to teach me how to play the trumpet when I was eleven or twelve, but he didn't have any patience and I got tired of hearing No, no! Not that way!
written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
performed by the Coasters
Take out the papers and the trash
Or you don't get no spendin' cash
If you don't scrub that kitchen floor
You ain't gonna rock and roll no more
Yakety yak (don't talk back)
Just finish cleanin' up your room
And sweep the dust out with that broom
Get all that garbage out of sight
Or you don't go out Friday night
Yakety yak (don't talk back)
You just put on your coat and hat
And walk yourself to the laundromat
And when you finish doin' that
Bring in the dog and put out the cat
Yakety yak (don't talk back)
(instrumental, same pattern as verses)
Don't you give me no dirty looks
Your father's hip, he knows what cooks
Just tell your hoodlum friend outside
You ain't got time to take a ride
Yakety yak (don't talk back)
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Another visit to the dentist, and yet another poorly-fitted crown that had to be removed. That's three in the last couple of years. Second installed by the same guy, gone since to his reward.
Monday, February 08, 2010
The top floors of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, have been closed for electrical problems. The structure, named for the ruler of the emirate that bailed the builders out on a ten billion dollar loan payment, is 2717 feet (828 meters) high.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
Friday, February 05, 2010
The title of this post is apparently Polish for The Man Who Never Missed.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
A kiteboarder was killed in Florida, a shark attack.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Had another suicide-by-cop locally -- in Gresham -- last week. Ugly all the way around, but as always, not as simple as it first seemed.
I saw the initial report on the evening news. Couple of witnesses at the apartment complex -- Nah, the man was doing what the cops said, they shot him with bean-bags, and then capped him dead. No reason!
That sounds heinous. But I've heard a few of these stories, so I poked around ...
Most complete story here.
The gist is that Aaron Campbell, upset over the death of his gravely-ill brother that very day, went to his girlfriend's apartment, in what everybody seems to agree was a bleak, suicidal depression.
A friend of the girlfriend called the police. When they got there, Campbell's girlfriend was outside in the parking lot -- and Campbell was in her place with three small children.
What's the deal? The officer asked.
She allowed as how Campbell was talking about suicide -- and that she had seen him put a gun into his coat pocket.
Hmm. Suicidal man with a gun, in an apartment with three small children.
I'd have called for back-up.
Officers started talking, and Campell was (and you can put "allegedly" in where you want in this narrative, I'm not going to) distraught, and said he wasn't going to play, and "-- don't make me get my gun."
None of this sounds good.
But: The kids came out, and shortly thereafter, so did Campbell, who initially, all seem to agree, did was he was told, putting his hands behind his neck.
Here the story bifurcates:
Police say Campbell began refusing to comply, yelling, moving around, putting his hands down.
Civilian witnesses say he was doing what he was told, though he was mouthing off, including telling the officers to go ahead and shoot him.
One of the officers popped him with a couple of bean bag rounds, and when that didn't do the trick, hit him with four more.
Civilian witnesses say he put a hand to his waist where he was hit by a bean bag as he backed away and the cop shot him.
Police say he put a hand to his belt and started to move away. They had reason to believe he was armed, and when he didn't stop what he was doing, they potted him. One round from an AR-15.
And to make it nastier, he didn't have a gun. (There was one in the closet in the house, they found later.)
So, yes, the police shot an unarmed man. Then again, when the man's girlfriend allowed as how he was suicidal and had a gun, you might consider those extenuating circumstances.
Still, they didn't see a gun, only a quick move, and because they expected that he had a piece, they capped him.
Expectations can be a killer, and it this case, that's what they were.
Did he do it on purpose, knowing they'd shoot? No way to tell, only guy who could say is gone.
What is also cause for head-shaking is a letter in today's paper from a woman who wonders why the police didn't just, you know, shoot him in the leg (or maybe, like the old cowboy movies, shoot the gun out of his hand ... ?)
She had no clue that the idea of being able to hit a moving target that precisely while amped on adrenaline is foolish. Police are taught to shoot to stop -- center of mass -- and if it becomes necessary to crank off rounds, that is supposed to be because the target has become an imminent threat to life or limb, and if you shoot him in the leg or arm or anywhere that doesn't instantly stop him, he might kill you, the little old lady peeping out her living room window, or anybody else without sufficient cover to stop a bullet.
I hope somebody from the local cop shop writes in and explains this.
It's all a nasty can of worms, but I suspect when all is said and done, the grand jury won't indict anybody.
Recent study indicates that "about 40 percent of cancers could be prevented if people stopped smoking and overeating, limited their alcohol, exercised regularly and got vaccines targeting cancer-causing infections."
According to the WHO, cancer is responsible for one death in eight, more than AIDS, TB, and malaria combined.
Just cut out all the illegal, immoral, and fattening stuff, and you might not live forever, but it will probably feel like forever ...
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
When they first came on, I would now and then catch an episode of the CSI shows. I was partial to the second one, CSI: Miami -- lots of girls in bikinis and one of the female leads is from Baton Rouge, and I enjoyed hearing her accent ...
Got an email from a knife guy, centered around a discussion of an article in a book on knife fighting. There was, he said, a section on rites and blood rituals from an old-country art that seemed way past stupid, and that led to my observation on evolution of arts as they move from country to country.