Friday, October 31, 2008

House of 1000 Corpses

Watched Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses last night. What a creepy movie. While - thank god - not the most graphically gory movie I've ever seen, it was still gross enough to make you squirm. And like all horror movie, the plot was an absurd clothes hanger for the images. But that's where the strength of the movie lay; the images were memorable, amazing, disturbing, and unforgettable. Zombie creates a lot of image collages from old movies, random soundtracks, and negative images and splices these into the movie - a distancing effect, to be sure, but it really provided an eerie, industrial-mood to the whole thing that ended up being more disturbing then any straight-up presentation would have done.

However, to me, the most effective scare tactic was the complete amorality of the characters. No irony nor camp for these villains, the glee they showed in pursuing the death of a few of the eponymous corpses was truly disturbing, and why I'll be looking for the sequel in the near future.


Great bit from the Daily Show.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Signing Statements

I had a conversation earlier today and the subject of Bush's illegal "Signing Statements" came up. For those of you that don't know about them, here's a little history.

My favorite quote: "In other words, it's not clear that the agencies disobeyed the law because the president said they could disobey it."

The Exchange Version of the Ruy Lopez - Conclusion

For all of you readers who care (<1, I suspect), the Exchange Version of the Ruy Lopez opening was successful.

In fact, the game would have finished sooner if it hadn't been for several unforced errors on my point. Oops.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

All Things Feel

An interesting story about taking animal rights to it's logical extreme. (The story starts after the poem.)

Unfortunately, I find most animal flesh to be quite good, and vegetarianism just doesn't have the taste nor the convenience of a lot of meat dishes. However, I've been slowly introducing more veggie dishes to my diet; I just don't ever see them going away completely.

Another interesting take theme on this theme is David Foster Wallace's famous essay Consider the Lobster (PDF link).

Blue Milk

An appreciation of Stereolab's Blue Milk, from 1999's Cobra and Phases Play Voltage in the Milky Night.

The Exchange Version of the Ruy Lopez

So I found this interesting article about the exchange version of the Ruy Lopez opening where you capture Black's knight on c6 on move 4 rather then running away from his pawns. The interesting thing is that it really opens up the center of the board for white and calls for you to exchange major pieces in favor of protecting your pawns for the end game where your opportunity for passed pawns is superior.

Of course, Wikipedia tells me that 4...dxc6 is almost always played at the master level so my opponent played 4...bxc6 instead, so the game is still a bit open at this point. If anyone's interested, i'll let you know how it turns out.

Quote of the Day

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.

–William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice. Act IV, Scene I, lines 182-95

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"A Teachable Moment"

This article reminded me why I have so much hope for Obama. If all goes well, we'll have an adult in the White House for the first time in eight years.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


"Personally, I see no reason why both can't be true. [Floridian Republicans are] being both incompetent and malicious.

Read What You Like, and Leave the Rest of Us Alone

Stumbled across this article this morning and it got me all worked up again.

Essentially, a bunch of critics these days - led by James Wood - are pulling out all of the old complaints about postmodernism again, including Thomas Pynchon, my favorite author. As Nigel Beale distills the arguement: "Is realism, "lifeness" or verisimilitude a necessary quality of good literature?"

I think the entire question is off-base. If you like something, read it, enjoy it, learn from it, tell others about it, and all is well in the world. The idea that something is a "necessary quality" of good literature is, to me, implicitly absurd. If it works for you, as an individual, then it's good literature. If it doesn't, then it's not.

I'm reminded of my trip to Napa Valley, all ready to be annoyed at the snooty wine snobs, only to be told at Saywer Cellars that "there are two types of wine. Not Red and White, but wines you like and wines you don't like." It's a refreshing attitude that I wish more of these high-minded literature reviewers would take to heart. Just because someone gets fulfillment out of, for example, a Stephen King novel - writing that some find may find repellent but that I find brilliant - doesn't mean that there's nothing redeeming about it.

I could go on and on about this, but i'll save you the rant. Read what you like. And let me know about the good stuff and i'll give it a read.

On Children

As you may have heard, Barak Obama suspended his campaign for two days to visit his ailing grandmother. (This is in direct contract to John McCain who said he suspended his campaign for two days but in actuality did not. )

This post touchingly muses on the results of having children and sez two interesting things:

1. ...too many black men see child-rearing as "responsibility" and not "personal investment."

2. Obama's mother, a relatively young woman when he was born, will not be here to see him inaugurated, should he win. Whenever, I think of that I just get sad--mostly because she did know the rewards of parenting and threw herself at her kids. There's something unjust in the fact that she won't get to see the results of all her work.

The idea of a child being an "investment", other then a cynical "someone's gotta take care of me when i'm old", is an interesting thought. I've always thought in the back of my mind that bringing a child into this world, with its mass murders, class warfare, and crazy leaders, is implicitly selfish, but this article really made me think that it's really optimistic: you're thinking that your child could really help make things better. Obama's mother certainly realized her dreams of her son making the most of himself - he'll almost certainly be the next president of the United States!

But when Coates writes that Obama's mother "won't bet to see the results of all her work", I think that's unfair. I don't believe she had a child with the goal of having him become president; she had a child out of love, and she did see the results of her work by seeing her son grow up to become a decent human who loved not only her but also others in the world. The rest of it - even being President - is really just whipped cream on top. And to call being president "results" is, I think, to cynically dismiss that accomplishment.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Interesting Reading

Some good reading:

- An amusing rant about the financial industry and hemp by a broker who's taking his money and getting while the getting is good.

- A good summary of the absurdity of the Republican "voting fraud" faux scandal. Money Quote:

"Miles Rapoport, a former Connecticut secretary of state who is now president of Demos, a public policy group, remarked that ... that with the explosion of voter registration and the heightened interest in the presidential campaign, you’d think officials "would welcome that, and encourage it, and even celebrate it." Instead, he said, in so many cases, G.O.P. officials are "trying to pare down the lists." "

It's the Green Jobs, stoopid!

I think Derrick Jackson has it right: now is the time to invest in green jobs. Doing so will help boost the economy by creating jobs, and green energy will help us divest ourselves from dependence on foreign oil.

As Robert Pollin, co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, puts it: "What we ought to be doing is rethinking regulating the financial market to channel credit into useful investments instead of useless, destructive speculations."

The lack of this investment is dramatic: "The Globe last week reported that wind turbine projects are being delayed for up to two years because the parts cannot be made fast enough."

Rare Praise, Indeed

The Buffalo Bills' good performances as of late have even the local-press curmudgeons praising the team.

What I was able to see of the game was impressive. The Bills finally look like a good team again. If they can stay healthy and beat some of their AFC East foes, then we'll be playing again in January, which is all I can ask for.

Truely Strange.

I don't really know what to make of this.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Did anyone doubt, part treis

Um, okay, I did. 99.4% chance of failure will do that to a guy.

Other then the worlds best football game (did you need to ask if it was the Bills?), i've never seen a never-say-die team like the Red Sox. They just don't quit.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Light Posting to Continue...

... for a while. We're dangerously close to a code freeze at work and all of my waking hours are spent either eating, playing or taking care of Hunter, or working.

Things you don't normally see in the light

On my run this morning before the sun came up, I saw a shooting star and three white-tailed deer munching on defenseless flower beds.

One of the deer was surprisingly un-spooked by me, and I was able to walk by it on the other side of the road as we check each other out. They really are beautifully skittish creatures.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Did anyone doubt, part deux

I sure didn't.

Did anyone doubt?

..that the Bills had lost the game the moment Trent Edwards went down with a concussion and J.P. Losman trotted onto the field? I didn't think so.

J.P. is essentially Rob Johnson (aka the Big Sack) with slightly better decision making capabilities (and that's damning with faint praise). He'll give you one or two good long bombs a game, 3-4 sacks, and 5-6 head-slapping WTF was he thinking moments. And i've had just a few too many of those over the years, thank you very much.

Having said that, Coach Jauron has it right: 4-1 is an excellent place to be. The Bills now have their bye week to get McGee and Edwards healthy (please) and to try and get their offensive line in some kind of order. Jason Peters' holdout hurt this team more then anyone's saying, and the sooner he regains his form from last year, the better.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Today's Hunter Update

Hunter continues to string together sentences. The latest one is "cup of milk" rather then just "milk."

He's also taken to reaching up and pushing/pulling your face towards whatever he wants you to pay attention to. For example, sometimes we'll be sitting at the breakfast table, and if i'm reading the paper, and he'll reach over, grasp my chin, and turn my head towards whatever he's trying to talk about. Typically, this is after several "Daddy"s so in his defense its not like he's already tried to get my attention in other ways.

The thing that continually amazes me about Hunter is his energy. He's always running around everywhere (I always joke that you can tell when he's not feeling well because he walks somewhere rather then running). It's a rare occasion that he sits down and spends more than a few minutes in one place. But get him moving, and that's another story. He'll happily ride his big wheel around the car for hours, or run up and down the hallway after matchbox or race cars.

Another "big guy" thing Hunter's been doing is walking Bella himself on our walks. He's been walking along at a good clip, holding Bella's leash, as we walk along a pretty good loop through some newer development near our house (the McMansion section, that actually has sidewalks). He does get a little tired after the loop, which usually manifests itself by him getting cranky towards the end of the walk, trying to get off of the sidewalk into the road or down into people's lawns, etc. but
overall he does a really good job. The funny thing is watching him try to "control" Bella by randomly pressing the leash's "lock" button or pulling the leash while yelling "Bella come!" He obviously watches Mommy and Daddy very closely.

Modern Art: Oppositional or Nothing?

While I don't profess to be any sort of expert on modern - meaning, recently-produced art - Andrew Sullivan pointed me towards this interesting diatribe (quotes below).

While I think the article contains an element of truth, I think that this overstates the case a bit. Many, many people - including myself, who likes to keep one eye on the art world - don't pay any attention to recent art movements or displays. We simply know what we like when we see it, and if we like something, we'll support it, or learn more about it, or tell someone else about it. (Kinda like what i'm doing now.) Part of which may explain the rush to "novelty" - it's hard to grab people's attentions - but it's also more indicative of the insular world of "fine art". These creative bubbles happen all the time. For instance, it's the same reaction I get whenever I see a clothing fashion show: It's a show for itself, outrageous clothes that no one will ever really wear for the people that created them in the first place.

I'll probably have more to say about this as I work my way through my new book.

"By universalizing the spirit of opposition, the avant-garde’s ­project has transformed the practice of art into a purely negative enterprise, in which art is either oppositional or it is nothing. Celebrity replaces aesthetic achievement as the goal of art. ...

These days, the art world places a great premium on novelty. But here’s the irony: Almost everything championed as innovative in contemporary art is essentially a tired repetition of gestures inaugurated by the likes of Marcel Duchamp, creator of the first bottle-rack ­masterpiece and the first urinal fountain.

Of course, not all the news from the world of art is bad. There is plenty of vigorous, accomplished art being produced today, but it is rarely touted at the Chelsea galleries, celebrated in the New York Times, or featured in the trendier precincts of the art world. The serious art of today tends to be a quiet affair, off to the side and out of the limelight."

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Roger's Singing

So on my run today, I listened to the good part of The Who's Endless Wire, their 2007 album. (The good part is the second half of the album, what Townshend terms the "mini opera".) It's pretty good music, but really suffers from the lack of a live drummer: Zak Starkey, their normal drummer, was tied up with his other job (as Oasis' drummer), and couldn't make the recording sessions. Which is a damned shame, because I realized today that Roger's voice really carries these songs. The pathos of Tea and Theatre really speaks for itself - rarely has Roger allowed himself such a wide range of emotions - but it's the other songs that he really carries. We Got a Hit is a pop song with good lyrics, but Daltry picks it up and makes it into a war cry. His singing on the mini-opera's climax "Mirror Door" is the only thing that turns this average rock song (the drum machine really cripples this song - it could have been so much more!) into something majestic. Just hear how he cries out the chorus... his confidence and powerful voice fills the energy gap left over by the instruments. The best is the final bridge that leads to the coda, where he repeats "Mirror Door!" several times, every time heightening the tension and energy until the song explodes and all that is left is the denouement... it's a masterful piece of singing, and I only hope that he's got more of this left in him.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bigger slump and bigger wars and a smaller recovery

Matt Yglesias points out a funny:

Meghan McCain to choose Stereolab’s "Ping Pong" as her September 29, 2008 "song of the day."

Of course, if you listen to the lyrics, the song's a rather scathing critique of capitalism (and actually quite apt for the current climate).

I'm pretty sure poor Meghan simply liked it for the happy, bouncing melody. It's only one of the songs that make the groop's Mars Audiac Quintet a must-listen.

From what i hear, their new album Chemical Chords is a return to form. (And this Boston Phoenix article sums up a nagging feeling I've had about the band ever since Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night.)

Kelly Link on the Mind

So in a synchronous moment, I read a Boston Phoenix article about Pretty Monsters, the new Kelly Link collection the night before I opened up a Best American Short Stories collection to "Stone Animals", one of my favorite of her stories (from the Magic for Beginners book).

What fun. Link's stories are glib examinations of the intersection of the normal world with that of the supernatural. Bizarre things happen and yet no one ever bats an eye. Toasters become haunted, rabbits build underground skyscrapers, and people try to live their lives amidst the fascinating chaos. Throughout it all, Link's narration dryly presents and comments upon the action: "[she] yanked at the hem of the skirt of her pink linen suit, which seemed as if it might, at any moment, go rolling up her knees like a window shade."

Or this: "Babies weren't babies, they were land mines, bear traps, wasp nests. They were a noise, which was sometimes even not a noise, but merely a listening for a noise; they were a damp, chalky smell; they were the heaving, jerky, sticky manifestation of not-sleep."

This is good stuff. Even her stories that don't really succeed are entertaining. Pick one up today!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Just to clarify

It's not that I think that the Bills don't have a good team this year; they do. I'm just not sure how good they are. They certainly haven't played many good teams: the last two teams they've beaten (the Raiders and the Rams) fired their coaches this week.

I'm having fun with the season, but until Jason Peters starts playing like a Pro Bowler again, and the O Line can start blocking for Lynch on a consistent basis, i'm going to remain consistently optimistic rather then boastfully happy.

Having said that, this Edwards kid is a keeper. Mark my words.

Number Four!?!!

This week's NFL power numbers are starting to come out, and the Bills, being one of only two undefeated teams left, are ranking in the upper single digits. Nice to see, but strange after all these years of being extra bad.

Um, they're laughing AT you...

I can't say I didn't see this coming, but now that the moment is finally here, it just makes me sad. What an absolute waste the Bush years have been.