Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I Would Hate To Belong To a Party...

...That is always wrong. A party that feels so threatened by a guy who lost the election to their nominee seven years ago (OK, he actually won and maybe that's why they feel threatened). A party of liars and true hypocrites, who constantly have to attack the other party because if their constituents ever stop their rabid hatred for even one second, their minds might kick in and they may start looking at facts and they sure don't want any thinking going on in their base.

So here they go again, making shit up and looking stupid to most of the thinking people in the world and like heroes to their unthinking, mindless base. You need to have more to offer than character assassination. God, I would hate to be a person who believed that was enough and I would hate to belong to a party that preached it as a mantra.

I would be embarrassed to belong to such a party.

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics

I belong to a Yahoo Group on the History of DC Comics and twice a week I send out information on all the comics DC put out 40 years ago today, which is almost the time I started reading comics. Starting today I'm going to pick the most interesting comic from each of my twice-a-week mailings and share them here. Look! Here comes the first one now!

Adventure Comics #355 (On Sale: February 28, 1967) sports a Curt Swan/George Klein cover, this one featuring the Legion of Super-Villains and Superman. This one is once again marred by the ridiculous looking "Go-Go Checks" that infested the covers of all of DC's books for a year and a half beginning in 1966.

Continuing last issue's story of Superman and the adult Legion of Super-Heroes with "The War of the Legions" written by Jim Shooter and drawn by Curt Swan and George Klein. The Legion of Super-Villains, which now includes two new members, Echo and Beauty Blaze, plots to defeat the Super-Heroes by capturing a Legionnaire. When Superman decides to depart for his own time, Brainiac 5 accompanies him to the time-travel lanes, and is captured by the villains moments after the Man of Steel vanishes. Reprinted in DC Super Stars #3 and Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 6 HC.

The second Legion story, "The Six-Legged Legionnaire" is written by Otto Binder and drawn by Curt Swan and George Klein. Because Lana Lang refuses to watch when she catches Superboy switching to his secret identity, he rewards her by taking her to a Legion meeting. Changing to her costumed identity of Insect Queen, Lana tours 30th century Metropolis, and after meeting Dream Girl, decides to apply for Legion membership. Since her powers come from her bio-genetic ring, however, she is disqualified. The Legionnaires are then summoned to Antarctica, where its Ice City is threatened by the ruthless criminal, Oggar-Kon. Reprinted in Superboy #181 and Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 6 HC.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Thoughts on a Season - The Bad

I haven't said much about the current TV season this year. For the most part I have just been kicking back and enjoying it. But I thought I would finally answer the call and pontificate a bit on shows old and new. This time out I will concentrate on returning shows that have disappointed me.


I haven't yet given up on Lost, but if it goes off the air next week I wouldn't morn its demise. I feel it is just jerking me around and I'm not the only one. If there was an award for show most often compared unfavorably to Twin Peaks, Lost would win hands down. Despite the protestations of the producers, I think there is little faith out in the great American wasteland that this show will ever reach a timely and satisfying end, but I would love for the producers to prove me wrong.

Survivor Fiji

I love Survivor, but this season is so patently unfair to half the contestants that I don't know if I can continue watching. Having all the contestants build a dream camp together, then giving it to one team after the first challenge and giving the other team almost nothing just rings of foul play. There is not a single contestant on the "lap of luxury" team (who lounge around on hammocks or on couches all day) that I would want to see win the money and it appears that very soon they will be the only ones left. The producers better have a way of flipping this thing on its head or I predict fans will abandon the show by the islandful.

Grey's Anatomy

This show lost me at the end of last season. Just about every character on the show would be in jail or in court as a precursor to going to jail if this were the real world. I can't find a redeeming quality in any of them. I hope they spend the rest of their horrid lives pining over the love of some other shitty, self-absorbed character that they have lost and will never get back except in out-of-focus, Vaseline-lensed sophomoric dream sequences and I don't want to ever waste my time on it again, even if it means missing Sandra Oh. God does this show piss me off!

CSI: Miami

I swore off CSI: Miami after the season opener and have not missed it a bit, except as comic relief. My opinion on this mess of bad acting on top of laughable writing can be found all over this BLOG and collected here.


So right-wing and so over-the-top that I have pretty much given up on it seven hours into this season. Reading that our soldiers at Abu Ghraib watched DVDs of this show and took lessons from it on how to torture people doesn't do much to endure me to it either. And what is the deal about Kiefer Sutherland? I find it incredible that he has been nominated repeatedly for best actor for this show when all he does is either talk calmly under his breath or scream at people.

Next time: The other end of the spectrum!

In Honor of the Dear Departed

Now that was a long Academy Awards Show. I felt like I had invaded Iwo Jima by the time it was over. I thought they were doing better at getting this thing down shorter, but I guess not.

Not that it was all bad, not at all. One thing that I thought worked well was that, like I said earlier about the Dreamgirls' credits, they really extended the presentation of each nominee, so that you saw some of what they were being nominated for instead of just having a list of names recited. I liked that a lot, but it makes the show longer and if you are going to do this, in my opinion, worthwhile endeavor, then you need to cut out of the show anything superfluous. There was a lot they should have cut.

As much as I liked the silhouette dancers, they could have been cut. As much as I enjoyed seeing the retrospective of the 50 films that have won Best Foreign Language Film. it could have been cut. The Will Ferrell, Jack Black, John C. Reilly song was cute, but we need to speed this thing up folks, so it should have been cut. All of the backstage nonsense should have been cut; it adds nothing and only serves to drag the show down and out.

The last thing I would cut out is the ham-handed banter between presenters. It rarely works and there was nothing memorable this time except the Al Gore presidential declaration bit.

The award for Ennio Morricone seemed to go on forever, not that much could have been done here given the need for interpreting Mr. Morricone's comments into English. I wouldn't have cut this, but it sure added to the "battle fatigue" vibe that permeated the whole evening.

As to my feeling on the actual awards, well, I thought Eddy Murphy was more deserving than Alan Arkin and that both Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi from Babel gave better performances than Jennifer Hudson did in Dreamgirls. And though I was thrilled that Martin Scorsese finally won his long deserved Best Director Oscar, and though I thought The Departed was a wonderful film, I think Babel was more of an achievement and a film that will stay with me for a very long time.

Be that as it may, I congratulate everyone associated with The Departed.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Bush Supporters: An Explanation

Belief is a virus, and once it gets into you, its first order of business is to preserve itself, and the way it preserves itself is to keep you from having any doubts, and the way it keeps you from doubting is to blind you to the way things really are. Evidence contrary to the belief can be staring you straight in the face, and you won't see it. True believers just don't see things the way they are, because if they did, they wouldn't be true believers anymore.

Philip Caputo

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Marty Wins!

In our vain attempt to see all the nominated films. my wife, son and I watched Martin Scorsese's The Departed this afternoon, pushing back the start of the TiVoed Academy Awards show by an hour. Well worth the trouble I would say, as I was just amazed by the audacity of the film. And then the capper of the night, Marty finally wins for Best Director and the film wins for Best Picture.

I don't normally yell when someone wins the Academy Award, but I did tonight. I screamed "Yes!!" and thrust my fists up in the air in triumph when Marty's name was read. What a night!

Congratulations Marty!

In Honor of the Day

Hosting the Oscars is like making love to a beautiful woman— it's something I only get to do when Billy Crystal's out of town.

Steve Martin

Must the Gods Tease Us So?

First it was the heart attacks and now this. When do we get what we really want?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Credit Where Credit is Due

Two things that happened last night got me thinking of credits on entertainment. I'm talking about TV and movies.

The second thing was late last night I turned on my TiVo and watched the latest (next to last for the season) episode of Monk on the USA Network, and I was once again struck by how delightful the opening title/credits sequence is. "It's a jungle out there" sings Randy Newman in what is, in my opinion, the best title/credit sequence on TV, in a time when these sequences are all but disappearing (look at Lost which has the most minimal of titles).

It's a unique and totally clever throwback to the days when many shows had a catchy title song that explained the premise: "Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, that started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship." "Here's the story, of a lovely lady, who was bringing up three very lovely girls. All of them had hair of gold, like their mother, the youngest one in curls." "They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky. They're all together ooky, The Addams Family." Gilligan's Island, the Brady Bunch and the Addams Family come immediately to mind, how could they not?

But Newman's Monk theme is much more subtle, it doesn't tell you what the show is about (a widower, San Franciscan, ex-police detective with severe OCD who is a modern day Sherlock Holmes). Instead it gives you the main character's world view; you may think the world is fine, but Monk knows...

It's a jungle out there
Disorder and confusion everywhere
No one seems to care. Well I do.
Hey, who's in charge here?
It's a jungle out there
Poison in the very air we breathe
Do you know what's in the water that you drink?
Well I do, and it's amazing
People think I'm crazy, 'cause I worry all the time
If you paid attention, you'd be worried too
You better pay attention
Or this world we love so much might just kill you
I could be wrong now, but I don't think so.
'Cause it's a jungle out there
It's a jungle out there!

The catchy tune and wonderful lyrics are enhanced by scenes of Monk being Monk, finely edited to match the pace of the music. And despite the depressing tone of the lyrics, the bouncy Newman music plays in such direct contrast, that you can't help but end the credits with a smile on your face. It's an amazing piece of work.

But I said Monk was the second thing that happened last night.

The first was our vain attempt to see all the Academy Award nominated films before Sunday's show. We aren't going to make it, but that won't stop us from trying. Last night we saw the wonderful Dreamgirls. From what I have seen so far, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson seem shoe-ins for the supporting acting Oscars, but I haven't seen everything yet, so I could be wrong. I thought the film was great, but I thought the end credits were pure magic.

As they introduce each actor they show numerous scenes of them from the film, which isn't really anything new, but they seemed to give each actor 10 to 15 seconds of credit time, which was great. However, this was not the magic part; the magic came next.

They split the screen up into constantly changing strips and showed scenes from the film interspersed with drawing of the sets. You would see a set and the strip next to it would be a drawing of the same set and then finally you saw the Production Design credit.

They then followed the same process through all of the main credits: Cinematography (montage the most gorgeous scenes in the film), Editing (10 seconds or so of a song and dance number with lots of cuts), Casting (the screen fills with small squares, each with a different member of the cast), Costume Design (a montage of costumes and the drawings from which they were derived), Lighting (montage of dramatically lit scenes), Choreography (montage of dance sequences), etc. It was magic!

You not only saw the name of the person responsible, you saw what they produced. You attached the people's names to their work and you got an immediate connection. That's the way to honor the people who pour out the sweat creating the cinematic experience. If there is an award for best credits, this film should win it, no questions asked!

Like I said, pure magic!

More on MP3

The Los Angeles Times agrees with me that there is something horribly wrong with the latest MP3 patent verdict against Microsoft. The U.S. Patent Office has been a joke for a very long time, being totally unprepared to deal with technology issues; it's good to see someone of the Times stature finally taking notice of its shortcomings.

Friday, February 23, 2007

ARCane MP3 Patent should be worth ZIP!

I'm sure you all have read the news that French company Alcatel-Lucent is suing the techno giants of the world over the MP3 format, beginning with Microsoft, who this week was ordered to pay $1.52 billion in damages. I don't have any problem with companies going to court to protect the patents on the technology they have created, but I have problems with them allowing others to claim ownership and even accept licensing payments for years and only then say, "Ha, not so fast, you paid the wrong guy."

There is something extortion-like about going after people who have attempted to legally pay for a technology of which, until now, you didn't claim ownership. It seems plain dishonest to me. As Microsoft argued:

Microsoft disputed that Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent's patents govern its MP3 encoding and decoding tools, and said it licenses the MP3 software used by its Windows Media Player from Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, a German company.

"We believe that we properly licensed MP3 technology from its industry recognized licenser — Fraunhofer. The damages award seems particularly outrageous when you consider we paid Fraunhofer only $16 million to license this technology," Burt said
I don't know if there will be a backlash, but a new music compression format may need to be developed. This reminds me of the early days of PC file compression and of how ARC begat ZIP.

If you were using a personal computer in the mid-1980s you probably bought a lot of software on those wonderful 5 1/4 in. floppy disks. These disks held little data and to get more software on a diskette, files were compressed using a format called ARC. ARC was a product of a company called System Enhancement Associates (SEA) and they let ARC be used for free. A few years after ARC took off, a programmer named Phil Katz developed a faster version of ARC, which Katz called PKARC.

System Enhancement Associates sued Katz for trademark and copyright infringement and won. All SEA wanted was for Katz to take PKARC off the market and to pay for their legal fees. Katz paid SEA $62,000 and took PKARC off the market. A month later Katz came out with a new compression program called PKZIP and a month or so after that ARC all but disappeared.

The early computer adopters believed strongly in shareware and despised large companies ganging up on the little guy. The lawsuit by SEA angered many shareware users, who perceived that SEA was a 'large, faceless corporation' and Katz was 'the little guy'. In fact, both SEA and PKWARE were small home-based companies, but the community largely sided with Katz and the superior compression capabilities of PKZIP.

What I remember is how fast the change came. One week everything was in ARC format, the next it was all ZIP. We need an MPZIP format to take on MP3 and send a strong message to Lucent.

On a side note, I met Phil Katz only once at a COMDEX (COMputer Dealer EXpo) in Las Vegas at the PKWARE booth. He was a very short, balding Jewish man who was surrounded by two very large bodyguards. I don't know what he was afraid of, but considering how he died it might have been himself.

Phillip W. Katz died in 2000 at the age of 37 due to complications from chronic alcoholism. Katz was found dead in a motel room holding an empty bottle of peppermint schnapps. Five other empty liquor bottles were also found in the room.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Happiness is a....

I love this one from John Varley's website...

President Bush, First Lady Laura and Dick Cheney were flying on Air Force One. George looked at Laura, chuckled and said, "You know, I could throw a $1,000 bill out of the window right now and make somebody very happy."

Laura shrugged her shoulders and replied, "I could throw ten $100 bills out the window and make ten people very happy."

Cheney added, "That being the case, I could throw one hundred $10 bills out of the window and make a hundred people very happy."

Hearing their exchange, the pilot rolled his eyes and said to his co-pilot, "Such big-shots back there. Hell, I could throw all of them out of the window and make 56 million people very happy."

Monday, February 19, 2007

One Sirius Merger

While I've been away for a few days in Mammoth pretending my body will still let me ski, Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio have announced a merger. As a Sirius subscriber I have been hoping for this for a while, if only so that a Sirius radio will come standard in any brand of car I happen to buy in the future.

I've heard XM and it sounds a whole lot like terrestrial radio, bad pop songs and lot of ads. None of the music stations on Sirius have advertisements and I like it that way. I only hope the crappy XM product does not infiltrate my nice clean, ad-free Sirius dial.

OK, there is one big exception to that; XM carries Air America and Sirius has not for a year and a half or so. So give me Air America, but keep the crappy ad-riddled music away!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Deja Vu

Today's Headline....

Bush says confident Iran provided weapons in Iraq

Like anyone is really interested in his level of confidence. Remember these golden oldies?

Bush says confident Iraq responsible for 9/11

Bush says confident Iraq has weapons of mass distruction

Bush says confident global warming is myth

Bush says confident of Republican gains in 2006

Bush says confident Iraq tried to obtain yellow cake from Niger

Bush says confident no one in White House responsible for Plame outing

Only a Boob would disagree!

The case for stem cell research is now closed. Who can argue with the need now that scientists in Japan claim to be able to increase the size of a woman's breasts using fat and stem cells. Much like easy access to porn has driven technological improvements over the years, increasing a woman's breast size in a way that feels natural to the touch is the driving force in medical improvements (OK, I have no proof for this last statement, but it just rings true to me)
When I first heard of this on Keith Olbermann I knew balance in the stem cell debate had forever changed.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A Big "F U" to Country Fans!

I've always considered country music to be music that was so awful you went out alone in the country to listen to it to save yourself from embarrassment. My opinion of people who listen to country music has only gotten lower over the years, particularly in the past four years.

That's because of the Dixie Chicks. No, I was not a fan, though I knew a few people who were. But I became a fan in 2003 after singer Natalie Maines told a London audience: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."

Personally I'm ashamed the president of the United States is a purported human being. But country stations, in their infinite stupidity, quit playing the Chicks in protest. But they really prove how dumb they are when they still refuse to play the Dixie Chicks after most of the country has come around to Natalie's point of view and sees the Shrub of Texas as the worst president this country has ever had.

From all of this I can only surmise that really dumb Republicans are the only people stupid enough to listen to country music. And they can have it!

On the other hand, mainstream, real American music just awarded the Dixie Chicks Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year. Mainstream America is apparently a whole hell of a lot smarter than the ignorant Republicans who listen to country music.

Friday, February 09, 2007

How to Murder a Comedy

I remember the first time I saw Jack Lemmon in How to Murder Your Wife. No, I don't remember what year it was, but I remember what it made me feel. I wanted to be a comic artist after watching this film. How could I not?

Jack Lemmon leads a life of amazing luxury in a beautiful Manhattan townhouse, with his own "man" at his beck and call and all because he draws a daily newspaper comic strip. Who wouldn't be enticed into the business by that?

Over the years I have seen this film at least a dozen or so times. I like it so much I have it on my TiVo list to be automatically recorded whenever it comes on. It came on this week on Showtime.

The premise of the film is that artist Stanley Ford (Jack Lemmon) leads this idyllic life in Manhattan where he works on his newspaper strip, Bash Brannigan. One of the twists in the film is that Stanley actually acts out Bash's adventures while his "man," Charles, (Terry-Thomas) films it all. Stanley then uses the photos as reference for his strip.

Stanley leads the life he does because he never got married (or so the film says). When Stanley gets drunk at a bachelor party and wakes up the next morning in bed with and married to Virna Lisi, his idyllic life goes all to hell. And then... well, you may want to see the film sometime and I should leave something of the plot unexplained.

Like I said, I've seen this film many times, but this was the first time it left me cold. No, not because the film is about "murdering" your wife or how women ruin men's lives. No, the film lost me about 20 minutes in, when Stanley talks to Charles about how great it would be to blow up a Manhattan skyscraper for his next strip.

Wow, that used to be a funny gag, but in the world we live in today, there is nothing funny about that at all; in fact, it yanks you right out of the picture. I guess in comedy timing is everything.

Today a line like that is a quick way to murder any comedy.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Who Needs NetFlix When You Have TiVo?

That is the question that is going to be asked more and more often as TiVo has joined forces with to create Amazon Unbox on TiVo. This new service for us TiVo owners with Series II or Series III boxes connected to the Internet through our wireless networks, will allow us to rent or buy movies and TV shows from Amazon and have have them downloaded directly to our TiVos for viewing.

It rolled out for limited testing today and should be available to all very soon. One neat feature is that when you buy a video, Amazon keeps track of it forever, so you can download it to your TiVo, watch it a few times and then delete it. The next time you want to watch it, you can download it again from Amazon.

Sign me up now dammit!!!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

You Snooze, You Lose!

So I'm working at home today, minding my own business, finalizing some detail design specifications for a boatload of new functionality for some of the websites at work, when I suddenly remember that today is the day that you can begin making hotel reservations for the San Diego Comic-Con.

I look at the clock and realize that I'm not a complete buffoon, they only opened up the hotel reservation system fifty-five minutes ago. What harm can being fifty-five minutes late be?

Well, as the saying goes, "You snooze, you lose!" In the world of Comic-Con hotel reservations, fifty-five minutes is a lifetime. We have stayed at the same hotel, The Holiday Inn on the Bay, for the past 10 to 15 years. We like it because it is on the water, across the street from Anthony's Fish Grotto. has a Ruth's Chris Steak House attached and is a nice walk to the convention center in the mornings or a short shuttle ride. Well, in 55 minutes it can sell out. So can all the other hotels in town.

The few that are miles away from the convention center were still available, but who wants to be way out there? Nobody, which is why they were still available.

Doing a thorough search however, I found that one hotel seven blocks from the convention center did have rooms, though not the normal rooms. The available rooms are called the "Wonderful Rooms" and they come at a not so wonderful price.

You snooze, you lose a lot more money on hotel rooms than you anticipated.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

No Malfunction Here!

Well, it wasn't a great game. Rex Grossman proved once again that he cannot string three good games together (two seems to be his max) before reverting to a poor passer who makes poor decisions. The game was poorly played but the right team won. Tony Dungy deserved it all and Payton finally exorcised his big game demon.

Though the game was only so-so, the halftime show was surprisingly good. I was only marginally interested in watching Prince when it started (and I was more interested than anyone else at my house). Though it started slow, by the time he did "Proud Mary" he was really rocking the place and everyone at my house was glued to the set. And "Purple Rain" was just excellent.

Friday, February 02, 2007

A Bit of Good News

Florida will replace by 2008 voting machines that do not leave a paper trail, Governor Charlie Crist has said.

This is a bit of good news and proof that once you put someone not named Bush in charge of a place actual progress can occur.