31 July 2004

A New Political Barometer

The Electoral Vote Predictor 2004 Page takes a new slant on opinion analysis. It tallies a state for red or for blue based on the results of the most recent polls and awards that states electoral votes to the Democrat or the Republican based on that poll. It also nuances the results, plainly displaying whether a state is strongly or weakly for the given candidate.

It tells a very fascinating story. As we were all clearly reminded in the 2000 election, the popular numbers are of secondary importants. It's the electoral numbers that matter. I've found it helpful to envision the presidential election not as one big election, but as fifty-one (counting the Federal City) state-level elections held simultaneously.

I'm not too thrilled with the electoral college, myself, but until someone comes up with a better plan, man, this is the shape of the playing field.

The current tally has Kerry 289, Bush 232, 2 states dead ties with a total of 17 between them (MN, IA).

And this site goes on the Links list.

30 July 2004

Catch Up With Ted Rall

This Week's Column (clicky)

Last Week's Column (clicky)

Read 'em while it's legal to do so, people!!!!!

And, hey...it's your tax dollars at work.

Kerry and Edwards Get Started

Wasn't that an absolute corker of an acceptance speech?

Fine gentlemen going to succeed Bush.

I wonder what nastiness the Republicans are going to start coming out with. They've been quiet, which means either they have nothing, or they are waiting to spring something.

The radio host, Ed Schultz, has it right. There are two cardinal rules:

1. They will do anything to win.

2. It's all Clinton's fault.

Remember this as you watch what they say.

29 July 2004

In Praise of the Western

Not just any Western, mind.

As usual, there's a story. A while back, my The Wife[tm] got in the mood for Westerns. This has more or less exploded. In the last several months, she has read a ton of Louis L'Amour and has gotten her hands on a bunch more Western lit.

I still don't have much use for the Western novel or story, but the screenplays, that's another matter.

When I was growing up, I had my cowboy phase, just like every other little American boy. It passed, I moved to the SF world of The Future[tm], and have stayed there ever since.

Along the way I began to recognize what many fiction affectionados realize, and that's sometimes, no matter what the story is, or where it's set, it's the characters that count. I've resonated with shows I have no interest in because I either like or can identify with what I see in the characters.

The American Western is, I think, a rather unique beast. In America, the word frontier has a different meaning than in Europe. I can think of no other genre from any other cultural body of literature that really compares. The USA established and consolidated her early success as a nation...for good and evil, better and worse...by expanding into areas considered 'empty' by the occupying peoples (the aboriginal Americans, those we imprecisely call "Indians", put up a spirited but ultimately futile struggle to hold the invaders back...and not all of them resisted the new neighbors, but that's for another program).

Values considered classic and enduring gave rise to the Westerner and that most singular representative of that, the Cowboy. The Cowboy wasn't invented by Americans...even the word buckeroo is said to have been borrowed from the Spanish vaquero...but once we got our hands on it we gave it a character that is uniquely American. We call the gaucho "Argentine cowboys", but we don't call cowboys "American gauchos".

Perhaps it's this uniqueness that made the movie and television cowboy of the 30's through the 60's such icons.

The Westerns I refer to in the title:

Have Gun, Will Travel. 1956-62, CBS Television Network. A truly complex Western series centering on the ronin-like character Paladin, which made the actor Richard Boone's repuation and would be forever identified with him. Paladin leads a double-life; dapper, cultured man of independent means in 1870's San Francisco/Man-in-black gunfighter, troubleshooter for hire. He scans the newspapers for apt situations, and, once found, sends his card emblazoned with a white chess knight and the legend "Have Gun, Will Travel. Wire Paladin, San Francisco". Suitably checkered past, accomplished chess player, quotes Shakespeare and the Classics with ease, strong sense of ethics, will work against his employers if they turn out to be the black hats. Is clearly a Western but through the freelancing of Paladin we have elements of the private detective. Immensely satisfying to this non-Western buff.

Shotgun Slade, 1959-61, not sure what network. Portrayed by Western and B-Movie stalwart Scott Brady, Slade (we never find out his real first name) was an actual private detective based in Denver of the 1870's. If Have Gun had shadings of the private detective, Slade went all the way, with plots that would have been equally at home in such fare as Peter Gunn and a pulsating jazz soundtrack to boot. This is not widely available, but it should be. This was apparently Brady's finest TV moment and the Slade character is actually quite likable. His moniker comes from the custom shotgun he carries: an over and under model, combining a rifle for distance and shotgun for close quarters. In what appears to be the pilot, he reveals he mad it himself. The quirky charm of the series was augmented by surprising guest stars, such as Ernie Kovacs as a crooked prospector in the pilot.

Gunsmoke, ca 1957-77, CBS Television Network. This is the grandaddy of all TV Westerns. Beginning as a half-hour b/w (the pilot introduced by none other than The Duke himself) and later going to color and hourlong, it was the chronicle of the life and times of Dodge City, Kansas, as lived by a group of significant characters. Chief among these were Matt Dillon, the marshal, played by wide-shouldered James Arness (brother of Peter Graves). The accent is on Dillon the lawman, which almost sometimes comes across as a police procedural...though procedure usually involved Dillon working the various personalities to the outcome of keeping the peace. Dennis Weaver got his start as Dillon's limping sidekick Chester, replaced later by the actor Ken Curtis as the iconic deputy Festus.

The supporting casts of these read like a Who's Who of up and comers...Robert Blake...Charles Bronson...Burt Reynolds...William Schallert and other future TV-Series character-actor standbys.

Sometimes I think that literature waits for me to be ready for it. It's a rewarding experience when I find I can finally approach these. For Western novels that may be a long way off still, but for early TV Westerns, I'm there. And it is an enthralling study in an art form that's truly American.

28 July 2004

The Heat Comes Back, A Little

After that luscious break in the beginning of the week the temps went back up a little.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I just don't remember, growing up in the Mid-Willamette Valley through the sixties and seventies, this many griddle-hot days.

I mean, I really do hope someone corrects me if I'm wrong.

Global warming isn't, after all, a few hot days...it's a trend. And, like everyone else, I wonder.

Oh, And By The Way

I realize that it's very possible that nobody is reading this. That's okay! Blogs are indeed fun things. I get to hammer out opinion, work on my public voice (I think everyone should pay attention to honing thier own. I really believe that would solve a great deal of civic and civil problems), and get to be able to say that hey, I had a blog too, back when. I was part off that revolution.

The only real drawback so far is that it is putting yet another nail in the coffin of my diary habit. I have kept a written one for years, sporadically (shout out to blank books!). I spend enough time working on this that I don't work on that, and there are other things, too, keeping me from working on that. It is better to have an examined life, but to examine it without exception where everyone can see is much too self-indulgent. We all have important things to say, but not everything we all say is important.

There are some things that should just be kept between me, myself, and I, not because they are deservedly secret or scandalous, but because that's the only place they belong and don't have context or relevance anywhere else.

25 July 2004

Your Northwest Heat Wave, Day Four

Yesterday, High at 100F. Not quite as miserable.

Today, the sun rises to gray skies and a temp in the mid-60s.

Nice. Gray skies cheer me more than blue skies, especially when we're baking under them.

Off to bed.

Saturday Slant:Remember the 80s?

The theme for this week:
My Favorite 80s Culture Moment is....

Almost without question, it's a moment when I realized what the music video was and how important it would be. It was during viewing the video for Duran Duran's song "Is There Something I Should Know?".

This is a hell of a video. The Fab Five were solidifying thier debut into the pop culture by making some genre-defining videos. Under direction of Russell Mulcahy, the Durans jetted off to the West Indies to lens a group of visuals for such classic songs as "Rio" and "Waiting for the Nightboat" and thence to Sri Lanka to do "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Save A Prayer".

After this run, the Durans loomed large in the public eye. Going into the followup to Rio, the album to be called Seven And The Ragged Tiger, the debut album Duran Duran was rereleased. Replacing the last track on Side 2 (it was a vinyl disc, folks!) was a tune with the intriguing title of "Is There Something I Should Know". Partaking of equal parts thumping rhythm, mystical shadowings, and a catchy ten-note hook woven through amongst catchy and introspective lyrics.

The video was of another dimension entirely, It was the purest video expression of surrealism I have seen. Sextants and measuring devices play in and out; people appear and disappear behind treetrunks and simple poles; bowler-hatted Magritte men measure and survey everything in sight. And moreso, woven in and amongst these entrancing images were scenes from thier eariler signature videos, as though they were closing a door on thier first stage in a wink-and-a-nod way. Every viewing presented a new gift.

The most powerful part of the video was the outro, a repetition of the musical theme of the chorus. The screen is divided into three heighthwise parts and images pass in and out of frame, from right to left, with the insistent beat of the music. The visuals themselves become a character in the video. You have no choice, the hypnosis complete; you are pulled forward along with it.

The music video is an example of high art and its coming-of-age was with that production. No longer did they merely illuminate the lyrics, they constructed thier own world and drew you in. It is still, at nearly 20 years remove, my favorite music video, and the release of "ITSISK" completed my journey to unabashed and unembarrased Duran Duran fan.

And I still am.

I think DD were the quintessential 80s band...high concept, high style. The essence of 80s culture.

Follow this to the source:

The Saturday Slant - New Every Saturday Morning

24 July 2004

Lance Armstrong

SIX!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If I need say more, I don't need to know you.

Danger Theater!!!!!

We are looking forward to seeing The Bourne Supremacy. The Wife[tm] is big on the Bourne saga and the first movie in the sequence (The Bourne Identity, natch) and I must say, for not being a Ludlum or Damon fan, the movie was a good rip and a lot of fun.

The Wife[tm] additionally inveighs upon me to read the Ludlum novels. I'll say this much, Bourne, when you really look at him, makes out as something of an Everyman...with preternaturally sharp physical and mental prowess, but an Everyman nonetheless. And there's lots of spy-style intrigue.

I liked the Bond films and Mission:Impossible, but The Wife[tm] taught me how to enjoy and get into them. She knows good action theater. And I can't wait to see it now, too.

PS:Tom Cruise's take on M:I sucks. Now, the fist Mission movie was good...it was a little hokey, and took some liberties, but kept true to the IMF theme. M:I 2, though, was so bad that The Wife[tm] took it back without finishing the movie. She has a high tolerance for bad action flicks. If it's not good enough for her, it's not good enough for anybody.

You won't get that time back. Consider yourself...advised.

Atkins Nation

Being a student of Graphic Design I am, naturlich, as much of an observer of marketing trends as my bizarre schedule will permit. Both The Wife[tm] and myself look with droll bemusement on the Atkins trend.

If you really want to get my The Wife[tm] going, start talking to her about "net carbs". She's a type 2 diabetic, diagnosed since about three years now, has a good rhythm going, has good glucose number, usually between 100 and 150. Feels great usually.

We regard the Atkins wave with a jaundiced eye. Myself, I notice that the soundness of a thing usually is in inverse proportion to its hype, and if a celebrity endorses it, then all bets are off. The low-carb lifestyle (it's a lifestyle now?) is hyped so strongly that it's a bandwagon now, and bandwagons are all momentum.

The concept of the "net carb" is apparently because there's more than one sort of chemical substance that yields carbs, and Atkins respects one and not another.

As my love will tell you, it doesn't matter how your carbs get there. They eventually all become glucose, just some faster than others.

I tell you, everybody should get to know a diabetic. You will learn more about nutrition than any number of ad campaigns (which are, after all, designed to change your mind...not inform you) will honesly tell you.

She gets hopping mad and starts to complaing about "Atkins Fuzzy Math".

Indeed.

Your Northwest Heat Wave, Day Three (early)

Comes the dawn, and the radio say the temp is 80F. The Yahoo! say it's 74F.

Poof. Poof. Poof.

Going to bed early today!

Your Northwest Heat Wave, Day Two (final)

The weatherguys were right; the o-fish-o temperature worked out to be a cheery, lovely 103f.

Current conditions at the time of this post: 78F.

Holy moly.

It is said that tomorrow will be only about 98F, but you know It'll be in the hundreds depending on where you are.

I'll be in my basement (hi temp there, 74F) until further notice.

23 July 2004

22 July 2004

Your Northwest Heat Wave, Day One

Official high today was apparently 98F

They say that tomorrow might bring us a century. Also it's going to be a clean air action-day, meaning, we should not take out locomotorboats out. Additionally, if we could all stop breathing, that would be nice.

Woolgathering; Ken Jennings; Martha, Martha, Martha!

Mighty Big Weather

Somewhere it's writ large, that a good blogger doesn't comment on the local weather.

Screw that. A heat wave is bearing down upon us, temps up near the century mark, and I hate it! I'll hate it starring right now, before the heat comes up, that way I don't have to get it going. It'll soon be too hot to think.

This is what God gave us Arizona for, I thought.

And what with the statistics showing that we have about 60% higher-than-average heat months in the last few years against about 40% lower-than-average cold months, maybe the vox pop should be understood when it worries about global warming.


Bridgework

The Saint Johns Bridge is closed while important work is being wrapped up on it. The Broadway Bridge is closed for about a month and a half whilst a new, more durable deck is installed. And the poor Sellwood Bridge has had weight restrictions choked down so low that Tri Met can no longer route the number 40 bus over it. As a matter of fact, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth as local authorities determined to let emergency vehicles over it...the Westmoreland fire station, at Southeast Bybee Blvd and 22nd Avenue, is under remodeling and is closed, and Sellwood is being served by a station on the west side.

Tough to be in Sellwood these days. Solutions thus far: Tri Met has created a new route, the Sellwood Shuttle, that runs N-S through the district along Southeast 13th and 17th Avenues, terminating on the south at the Milwaukie Transit Center, and connecting to the central city at the Milwaukie Blvd/Powell Blvd gateway point. The other route is a crosstown, the number 71, I think, that runs up to the Lloyd District. So, now, there is no direct route to the Transit Mall from Sellwood, only transferring connections. And, for Emergency services, there will be access over the Sellwood Bridge, only when they get there, they have to slow down to 25 mph to cross. Well, it's either this, or your house and/or business burns down.

Sellwood never has gotten any respect. Pity. It's a cool part of town.

Ken, Ken, Ken!!!!

Who hasn't heard of this guy? His m4d Jeopardy! skillz are truly l337. Typically, he'll be up at about $10,000 and his opponents haven't cracked $1,000.

I bet I'm along with a lot of people: we watch the spectacle with vicarious interest, loving the heights he's going to but hoping to be there when the Ken-killer finally debuts. This guy smacks down other eggheads like there is no other competition for him. Eerie.

Martha, Martha, Martha!!!!

I was surprised that she only got 5 months in the pokey. Not that that won't be a burden for her...as many notables who have spent time at Club Fed have noted, it's not as easy as people think. Sure, it may not be the hellhole of depravity that regular penitentiaries are, but one is a prisoner there, meaning your day is ordered for you, you have your privacy and all control over your own life absolutely taken away from you. You are reduced to an inmate serving time, almost a number only.
And this has to be crushing to people who are used to having lackeys, a measure of fame, and considerable personal power.

There has been a great amount of press about how Martha was gone after because she was Martha. I think there is something to that. First, though, I think the sentence is definitely in line with the crime: it's only now that Ken Lay is doing the perp walk and there is considerable speculation that he'll get off with a slap on the wrist. Martha Stewart has done far, far, far less damage to society than the mess Mr Lay made of the economy and the personal lives of everyday people who work for a living. The Enron meltdown was, what, since two years...and only is he now being indicted.

Lesson: be a white male and get Republican connections, and give them a ton'o'money. You'll get a pass for as long as possible.

Enjoy the hot days ahead...if you're insane, of course.

21 July 2004

Electric Light Orchestra:Flashback

Treated myself to an overdue present yesterday. Three years ago, before the release of Zoom, Jeff Lynne released another "box" retrospective of ELO's works. The first one was Afterglow, and it's well worth having. This particular one is called Flashback, and it's worth having too.

First thing about it is the quality. The songs were lovingly remastered and sound clear and rich. There are never-released bits; songs that never reached a record (such as "Love Changes All" and "Helpless") and some that never perhaps should ahve (the last track, "Who's That", needs to be heard to be believed. It's incredible whimsy).

Three CDs with the set list determined by Lynne himself. Some album-gems that I found unexpected included. This collection is what Lynne felt best represented the group's work; an essentials collection chosen by the creative force himself.

If you have any single ELO work, this should really be it.

5 spaceships.

At Least The Question Is Still "If"

The amazingly ham-handed floating of the trial balloon, over the last few weeks, of the possible suspension of elections if there were another major al-Qaeda strike on the ConUS made me think back, oh, two years or so.

After the chaos of the 2000 elections had time to sink in, and the horror that is 9/11 precipitated, knowing that the Republicans are ruthless and cynical graspers at power, I'll bet it occurred to many people that the Bush Administration might connive some way to stay in power that mere votes could not contradict.

I remember thinking that these were the sorts who would take advantage of another national tragedy to remain in power. Mind, I'm not saying that they would collude on such a thing. Those now in power would not hesitate to take advantage of any situation that presented itself...that's my point.

Ted Rall had arrived at that conclusion last year. But, as I said, he's smarter than most of us.

Besides, if there were another major attack on ConUS, wouldn't that be evidence that, prima facie, would indicate that the Bush Admin has been fiddling around and screwing up instead of protecting America?

I would think so.

18 July 2004

Needless to Say, I Got the Job [tm]

Well, it volunteer, so there will be many demands and no pay. But I am going to commit to designing the newsletter for the Sierra Club's local group. The state periodical serves about 24,000 members.

It's going to be a bit tough at first, coping with deadlines and measuring up to other people's expectations, but it will be worth it. This is some of the experience I've always wanted to have. Two years of classroom is fine, and it's been exciting, but this is Real World Stuff.

I'm looking forward to this.

17 July 2004

Newish Ted Rall

Delayed in Linking due to Blogger malfing.

Read it and think beyond the title

As someone who is on the left (actually, it was center-left, but someone went and moved the center on me), I must sincerely say that I appreciate law, order, and a disciplined police and fighting force. I am a police and military fan. The Wife[tm] and I regularly watch Cops. It is an environment of law and order that make it possible to express a contrary opinion. And I will always offer my appreication to a Veteran.

Ted has it right, though. By offering military service in wars of dubious merit to people whom really have few other options for a living, the soul of our country is really being torn out, wadded up, and thrown away.

There are a good number of people who won't be coming back to live thier lives and have families, open businesses, be assets to thier employers and communities, make world-changing discoveries...an educated and motivated American is an enourmous engine of untapped possibility.

That's what has made America what we are and what we were. That's why America has been the great hope of the West.

Now, we will never know what we have lost.

So, support the troops. Because to stand and deliver on a promise of service is the greatest sacrifice anyone can make, and it takes true courage to make it in this time of no-exit-strategy.

The Funny Words the Govmit Likes to Use, or Just call me Wilhelm

Just heard on the raydidio: There is a proposal to create an "intelligence Czar" to coordinate a remodeling of the USA's intelligence services.

When they are compelled to create a position like this, why do they use the title the Imperial Russians used for the Emperor?

Yes, I know the title isn't an offical one.

But things like "Drug Czar" and "Intelligence Czar" just sound silly.

Well, no. Actually, "Intelligence Czar" sounds kinda neat. I may nominate myself; after all, I am a smart fella (if'n I do say so myselfs) and I've always wanted to be Emperor. Altho I am a Germanophile, I think I'd actually prefer the term Kaiser.

This sort of thought serves as a distraction from the fact that the Govmit has only done a lot of huffing and puffing and armwaving instead of actually fixing the FBI and CIA, which is all that was really needed. No, the champeens of "Small Govmit", who have given us a huge Heimat Sicherheitdienst, can't fix anything without creating yet another level of bureaucracy to just mess it up further.

We're from the Govmit, we're here to help.

16 July 2004

Saturday Slant:Dear Blank

This last week's slant:

Dear ________, I’m sorry we never __________.
Fill in the blanks, then elaborate.


Dear Sister, I'm sorry we never stayed close.

I have a little Sister. She is a sweet person and very loving but has (to be honest but as gentle as I can) poor judgement skills. As a result of those, she has two (it must be said, very sweet and lovable) children (my neice and nephew, naturlich) who have problems of thier own because of the shifting environment they're forced to deal with.

She has always said I was an influence on her in the positive direction, enough, that my nephew bears my first name as his middle name. That's quite an honor. But side she says I'm an influence to her, I wonder why she didn't follow other examples I set for her, such as deliberation and caution in your personal life. Now, I'm no angel, certainly no Solomon, but here am I at 40mumble years old, my debt picture is blissfully simple, I have a smart The Wife[tm] who is utterly devoted to me, and I am finally in my own house that years of diligent work have made possible (that, and inheritance from a Mother-in-law and a Father who have gone on in the last four years).

Though I see that I am harvesting some of the fruits of a Puritan work ethic in a society where that is the norm, I am not rich...the new house is seeing to that. It's requiring some rearrangement of the budget, but I'm going to send my Sister a few hundred dollars. There will be some sacrifice because of that. But there is the chance she will be coming back home from the distant corner of Oregon she, for some insane reason, decided to run off to. And maybe she'll say "Hey" a little more often.

A few hundred bucks won't make up for years of being distant, but hopefully, it will be a welcome assist, and I hope, in the right place. Me and The Wife[tm] started out at the very bottom. Sis has two kids to raise. But I've found out if you don't quit or give up, eventually, something nice comes out of it.

Check in at Slant Central, and see other Slants:

The Saturday Slant - New Every Saturday Morning

Media Matters for America

Follow this link to what should be a checkpoint on your daily read.

Short form:

Republicans influence the media.

The liberal media is a trope they trot out to deflect criticism. There is no such thing. It's a fiction, a strawman.

Republicans will do anything to win, and will lie about Democrats if it serves, and then get incredibly defensive and cry about being done to if it's every pointed out that they've been unfair or haven't told the whole truth.

The national Republican party looks at you and know's there's a free lunch, and laughs at you behind thier hands in contempt whenever you vote for them. Please don't encourage them.

Media Matters goes on my links list ("News You Could use")

Bad Movies. Good Rum. ELO Concert

Movie Night here at home.

Spy, a Bad Movie that featured a lot of shots of Portland. The Wife[tm] wanted us to share reveling in shot of our beloved city while observing yet another script that came ot Portland to die.

Invasion:UFO, a Bad Movie that was an idea from the Minds of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson whilst enroute, artistically, from Thunderbirds to Space:1999. The star was Ed Bishop, a handsome young (at the time...this was 1969) fellow who could declaim with the best of them. This movie either led to or was a byproduct of the Anderson series UFO, which chronicled the secret struggle between Earth and ETs from an unknown planet who wanted to harvest human organs for transplant. They flew about in frantically-spinning ships which resembled cake-covers if they were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, they breathed liquid, and they were nasty and ruthless.

The acting was almost-believeable, the f/x, imported from the Andersons' time producing the T'birds, were easily read but good looking enough that you forgave it and went along. The production had it's charm in the clothing styles, include in kitsch-sexy ensemble for the Moonbase personnel which included purple pageboyish wigs for the females.

The Wife[tm] on Commander Ed Straker, as played by Ed Bishop: "He sure does make a lot of speeches, doesn't he?"

The ELO Concert; in the hopeful atmosphere of the world before 9/11, Jeff Lynne revived the ELO concept, with a new lineup, a new album (Zoom) and a tour. ELO has long been my favorite band, and Jeff Lynne my favorite songwriter. I was hopeful that the tour would come close enough to Portland to attend. Sony had ginned up a band website (elomuic.com) and had a message board going. They were even going to relrelease the old catalog with bonus tracks and graphic goodies. It was looking like it was going to be fine.

Then the tour fell flat, and was cancelled after three dates.

The album garnered mixed reviews and didn't do well.

Sony suspended the relrelease after three albums.

And the fan base dengenerated into a huge argument over whether ELO was really ELO with only Jeff on board.

Well, at least I had the concert to look forward to, it was going to be shown on OPB in...November 2001.

So, last evening, at Hollywood Video, we found the Zoom concert DVD. The Wife[tm] graciously consented to our viewing. I did so later that night whilst drinking the rum (Cruzan, for the record). The performance was fine, Jeff was in good form.
Bittersweet because I realized that this is probably as close as I'm ever going to get to a ELO concert. If you loved ELO, Zoom is a fine album and you should get it, if you haven't yet (it's been out for a couple of years); the concert is worth viewing, Rosie Vela is a fine backup singer and is easy on the eyes, and there are two sexy female cello players. and, for the old guard, Richard Tandy is holding up the keyboard end (and it is a pleasure just to watch him play). The music tended toward very old (Ma-Ma-Ma-Belle) and new (songs from Zoom) with a couple of goodies from thier big late '70s run (even "Don't Bring Me Down") mixed in.

I give it 5 spaceships.

Blogger All Better!

Well, looks like Blogger got its act together again. Got some catching up to do. The succeding post to this one was writ about two and a half days ago. Then, I hope, the Saturday Slant

Test Post

This is a test post. This is it in italics. And also in Bold.
 
I tell ya, I love Blogger, but sometimes it gets soooo finicky!
 
If this is working in Safari when I get home, I gots some posting to do!

10 July 2004

The New Harry Potter Movie:The 8 Millionth Quick Review

Well, not quite a review actually. But I feel compelled to say how good the movie was.

I've often said something I think we all, as readers and audiences, know. It's not enough to have a fantastic background to tell as story, especially one that develops such legs. You can have the most fantastic and seductive setting that you can name, the most inventive and artistic surrounding, and it will still be absolutely sterile and empty unless you have interesting characters.

The characters of the Harry Potter saga are not only interesting, they're likeable. They each have traits that are appealing and personalities that are human - good and bad impulses and flaws. They speak to us in thier own way. Some of us identify with Harry, for quite a few have been the fish out of water who thinks maybe they are actually part of some other world but put down in the wrong one by mistake or tragedy.

The movie characters carry off very well from the literary versions, and the casting couldn't have been more perfect. I love the earnestness of Daniel Radcliffe's portrayal, the expressiveness and honesty of Rupert Grint's performance, and the chattery freneticism of Emma Watson's Hermione. They are also good looking actors, in particular, in about ten years Emma Watson's going to make we wish I were thirty years younger.

Michael Gambon follows Richard Burton's Dumbledore admirably, echoing Burton but not impersonating him. Well done there, though it will take at least the next movie before he makes the character his own

Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman positively own McGonagle and Snape, though sadly there was much less for either to do in this one than the last, though Rickman did work well as a comic foil in the boggart lesson scene.

David Thewlis as this turn's Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts...I confiess this is the first time I've been able to enjoy a performance of his, having not really followed his career. Good turn as Lupin, earnest and sympathetic. In a way, his performance as someone cursed with lycanthropy made me think of people who have chronic occasionally debilitaing mundane afflictions and the sacrifices they sometimes have to make to get by.

Gary Oldman...dead on as Sirius Black. The performance just has to be seen; by now I think there's nothing that he can't pull off with flair.

There are some things left off; there is so much in the story that to make it 100% faithfully as a movie would require three or four hours. Get ready for more of this; as anyone who's followed the books knows, they're just getting loooooonger. But largely the omissions that were made were the right thing. I do, however, regret that the movie completely omitted exactly who was behind the pseudonyms on the cover of the Marauder's Map; it's an important thread that gives the story depth and real history, and really depicts the secret nature of the world of these wizards.

In all, it's worth seeing because it's giddy fun, not just for kids but for adults who still cherish thier inner kid, it maintains the standard of gorgeous design and photography that the first two movies made, and in all, it's well done storytelling.

09 July 2004

New Ted Rall, via Yahoo!

So, why do so many critics of The W say he was illegitimately installed?

Short answer: the Supreme Court had no business hearing Gore v Bush. The State of Florida was supposed to settle the issue.

Since the highest court in the land chose to hear it, it was extraconstitutional. Since is was the Supreme Court, there is essentially nobody to call them on it, not in that climate; any challenge issued to the Court could have just been turned back. They are not obliged to hear cases sent to it.

This is what happens when Republicans are in cahoots. And now they regret it? Hey, you guys, welcome to the party.

Read Rall and be thy enlightened.

08 July 2004

QuarkXPress Adds Image Geeking

Have just learned of an upcoming XTension (a software module plug-in) to QuarkXPress called QuarkVista. This new applet will add image editing capabilities which will be available from within Quark, rather than having to export to another image geeking app (Photoshop, naturlich) and then reimporting.

This, however, is hardly a replacement for Photoshop...not by a long shot. The geeking is only apparently the basics, blurs, basic color corrections, filters. But the concept of bringing so much functionality in an area that Quark typically ignored (image previews were sheer dreck until 6 and you still have to choose "Hi-Res Preview", it's not automagic) ought to at least raise an eyebrow or two.

Not to mention the cost. As Tom Peterson says, Free is a very good price!

But, don't expect it to replace CS.

Quark's page says to expect release Any Time Now[tm]

Follow this link to Quark's QuarkVista announcement page

07 July 2004

Those Crazy Republicans

They're attacking Edwards already. As expected, it's not about any issue, it's all insult and ad hominem.

They sneer he's a trial lawyer. Well, so were many of our past presidents. Like Abraham Lincoln. Who was a Republican.

They sneer that he's a millionaire. Apparently that's okay so long as you're conservative. I guess liberals're supposed to be poor.

John Edwards comes as close to the quintessential American success story as anyone I can name. He was the first person in his family to go to college. He set his sights on not just achieving his goals-which wout be admirable alone given his background-but excelling. And excel he did.

You'd think that they'd give him credit for that. Oh, wait, my bad. No, you wouldn't. Like I said, it's expected.

And one more thing: when you high'n'mighty Republicans criticise someone like Kerry for being "the most liberal member of the Congress" in an attempt to sway or scare me into voting for Bush, you seem to forget that I am a loyal American...and a liberal. You don't convince me, you insult me, too.

Saturday Slant:Backstage Pass

And now, Pariah's Saturday Slant.
The concert was incredible—loud, rocking, virile. Your favorite artist, dripping with sensuality, held the audience—and especially you—enrapt from entrance to encore. During the final encore, a stage hand drapes around your neck a laminated Backstage Pass. It’s from your onstage idol, the roadie says. Thanks to a radio giveaway, you’re at the concert alone. What happens next? Who is the artist?

I have been unfortunate in that while my own musical experience has been rich my concert experience has been dirt-poor. I can really only speculate about what going to concerts on a regular basis is like. The only real concert I've ever been to is an Al Stewart gig at Gill Coliseum at Oregon State University in, oh, 1981, I think.

My first and best favorite artist, though, is Gerry Rafferty. Those of you who were teenagers and/or better in the late 70s BHT (Before Hammer Time) remember the great song "Baker Street" from the huge album City to City. This was a huge album...only deflected from the top spot on the American album charts by MJ's Thriller...and "Baker Street" was number one in the singles for a time. A true classic, just about everyone remembers hearing that scorching sax solo-intro that remains timeless as the song's signature.

I have long fantasized about seeing Gerry live. If I was blessed with the chance to go backstage at one of his gigs, I'd like to chat with him, to find out just what kind of a bloke he is, have him tell me his story, and hear what's driven him to do the things he does and did and what turns him on about his own music. I've always been keen to find out why artists I care for do what they do, partially in hopes of understanding why it is I like what I like, and partially just because I want to know.

I'd tell him the story of my life, meagre as it is, and we'd talk about how to find the inspiration on common moments, about how to find the muse. I'd tell him I have an electric bass and have wanted to learn how to play it, and he'd give me some pointers and suggestions.

Alas, Gerry has never toured this side of the big pond, so this must remain a fantasy...either that, or I travel to Scotland.

Gerry Rafferty is, by the way, still producing genius. His latest effort is Another World, and it is available at his website, http://www.gerryrafferty.com.

Here is the path to the Slant, and the other Slanters:
The Saturday Slant - New Every Saturday Morning

John Edwards

The Presidential race this time seems to demand even more attention than the last one.

As many were paying attention (out of morbid curiosity if nothing else), there was much anticipation on who John Kerry was going to choose. He chose smilin' John Edwards, of course, as everyone knows by now.

Personally I like the choice. It's image. Edwards looks good, dont'ee?. And image goes a hell of a long way in this country of ours.

Now, I'm registered as a Democrat (I was Dem at first, then Libertarian for a year, then Dem again, then unaffiliated for a long time, now Dem again). I'm a big believer in aligning one's self with whatever group most closely aligns with one's own goals or values and the Dems are returning to thier roots and running good and smart people. I also believe that my re-registering as Dem pisses off Karl Rove.

In the course of all that I got on the DNC's e-mailing list. Does anyone remember how Mr. Kerry said that the veep announcement would go out on the 'net before being announced? Well, I got one of those announcments. Timestamped just after 08:00 Monday morning.

I may print it out and save it for posterity. Or burn it to a CDR. Or something.

Radio 620 on the Air America Network

Pete Schulberg, in the Portland Tribune, indicates that, three months out of the box, KPOJ 620 AM, our local Air America affiliate, is now doing even better that KPAM. Quite something for left-biased radio (which has been too long in coming).

It's fun listening to. They have a good time and the message is very convincing. It's also cool to be able to listen to Al Franken every day (especially "The Oy Oy Oy Show", which usually happens in the first half-hour of the O'Franken Factor).

And a little historical note: the call sign KPOJ is actually a blast from Portland's past; the old Oregon Journal, once our afternoon rag, had a building down on the waterfront back in the days we had a riverfront expressway (Southwest Harbor Drive) where Tom McCall Waterfront Park is now. Back then they had a house radio station called KPOJ...for K-Portland-Oregon-Journal.

Of course, just the mere concept of AM620 being under the same roof (on SW Macadam Ave) that KEX is is ironic. Now, they're both Clear Channel stations, but in the 70s and 80s they were crosstown rivals, and 620 was known as KGW, and live over at 15th and SW Jefferson...but boy howdy am I digressing.

Vitamin R

I likes my rum, I do.

Right now my favorite is Captain Morgan's, which, right now, is being marketed pretty much to death. I been drinking it since before it got so mass market. Number one-and-a-half is this newcomer to the Oregon market called Cruzan. They have a 2-year old which has a simple and clean taste. Our last visit to Your State Liquor Store (the Menlo Park edition, a very clean and well run place) revealed that they've come out with quite a few variations recently, including a quite delectable Cream Rum. I recommend!

Another Update on the Catholic Front

Watched the announcment by Archbishop Vlazny today about how the Archdiocese of Portland (whose bailiwick is all of Oregon west of the Cascade ridge...the east side belongs to the Diocese of Baker, for what that's worth) and am still trying to digest the information.

My information on the subject may be somewhat limited, but as far as I do understand things, bankruptcy will at least provide two things; there will still be an Archdiocese for the aggrieved to sue (apparently the amounts asked for so far would leave the A/D an empty husk long before all the claimants got paid) and there will still be an Archdiocese to serve the current Catholic parishioners.

The vast majority of that group, I must point out, are actually rather against priests sexually molesting innocent young boys and going away scarcely punished, if at all.

05 July 2004

An Update on the Catholic Front

Today The Wife[tm] mentioned she'd like to go to Mass sometime soon.

So would I actually, but that's a little beside the point. Point was that my non-Catholic-non-denom-Xtian The Wife[tm] brought it up without it being any part of the conversation.

Actually, I shouldn't be so darned surprised, not after the things she's said about it and her attitude in general about my faith.

We're thinking St Philip Neri-the Paulist Center-down at 18th and SE Division. If I understand it correcttly, part of thier mission is to reach out to us "lapsed" Catholices. Heck, they even have a gay-Catholic minstry. Makes sense, actually. You can look it up in the Catechism.

04 July 2004

Stephen King

I am not a Stephen King lover. The only reason I say this is because I have been reading his work of late.

There is a story cycle some of you may have heard of called The Dark Tower. It is a seven-novel sequence comprising The Gunslinger, The Drawing Of The Three, The Waste Lands, and Wizard and Glass, then there was a multi year lull, then he was nearly run down and killed, then he's come out with the last three in a burst: Wolves of the Calla and Song Of Susannah, which are out now, and very soon now (and at long freakin' last) the eponymous last novel in the series.

I have often found it amusing that an author who, in the main, has pretty much produced hack work (it probably helps little that I am decidedly not a horror fan) has come up with a complex and acutally quite surrealistically beautiful series.

The Dark Tower is not the most popular work King has done, and so may require some explanation. It details the quest of Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, for the Dark Tower, which seems to sit at the center of multiple universes, somehwat in the manner of Roger Zelazny's Amber. The world Roland makes his way is a world that is very very very old and fading and unraveling is surreal ways, kind of like an old, once-beautiful Oriental rug. The gunslingers were a caste of men very much like European-medieval-style knights, with thier codes of honor and of service, but instead of dealing in sharp steel and armor, they deal in Cowboy style and in six-shooters.

Along the way the reader is introduced to glances of a world that lays in ruin. Roland gives us hints of the world he grew up and came of age in-a finer time. These surreal and sometimes horrific vistas are presented with no explanation but many hints as well, and we are left to ponder the world as it may have been and wonder about the paths taken to get there.

It is also a mixture of parallel-universes, technology approaching the level of "wierd science", and fantasy-style sorcery.
Many times, emblems and objects from our own world are seen. They seem at once as though they should naturally be there, and also have somehow 'leaked through' from our world.

The characters are more than prop-ups, with intriguing and beguiling customs, manners, and ways of speech. I never tire of reading them.

There are some places where King's mythos comes close to jumping the shark, but they pull back just before they become too silly. And his reliance on giving the Susannah character a new split personality to advance the tale grates just a bit. Though I haven't read Song of Susannah yet, I am wary; in Wolves we begin to see parts of King's own Maine, and I understand that the author himself makes an appearance. This is perhaps the ultimate act of the evolving story, since, as the tale has continued, King has woven more references...and even characters (the Father Callahan character from 'Salem's Lot plays a major supporting role here). It will be interesting to see how King handles putting himself into the story. I can't quite articulate why, but that seems a major risk-one of the most winning qualities of the series is its otherworldliness, and having King show up as a character could potentially rob it of that.

But, like most Tower watchers, I've followed the story though the more-than-decade of its release. I want to be there for the end, if only to see how it turns out; I want to see how Roland's quest for the Dark Tower ends up saving the many universes which it is said to tie together.

Moreover, I want to see how the finishing of this tale finishes KIng's personal vision of a great work outside his normal oeurve, one that will probably survive the fame of his mainstream horror novels. Yes, it is that good.

First Steps and Reminders Why I Take Them

I've emailed Lazerquick. My first attempt at seriously getting information to work a new job in my chosen next career. Not as glamorous, maybe, as other GD professional opportunities, but pays better than my current job and doesn't visit misery on others whilst I'm left out to dry by a managment who's too busy patting themselves on the back for the great job they've convinced themselves they're doing.

I gave Lazerquick a quick summary of the programs I know (Quark, InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop) and they fired me back a auto-response letter. It may go nowhere. It may go somewhere. But for me it's a sort of Rubicon.

I'm still not saying who I'm working for. I'm not proud of them, leave it at that for now.

But, one way or the other, I'm going to be a designer by profession. And I'm going to be paid for it. Designing is the best thing anyone can ever do. Ever.

03 July 2004

Daily Arrogance for Saturday 3 July 2004:Change

I like change. Just not your change. I probably don't like your preferred rate of change, nor your ideas of what should change, I just like things changing the way I want them to change.

As a matter of fact, if things changed the way I think they should change, things would go a whole lot better.

So There [tm].

01 July 2004

Saturday Slant:My Life As A Cartoon

In this week's Slant, Pariah gave us the follwing question:

A freak electrical storm sucks you into your television—into a cartoon. Which cartoon character are you?

This was much harder to answer than I thought. This Q was posted last Saturday (n'cest pas) and it's taken me all week to come up with an answer.

Issat my final ansa? I donno, Reege. But here's what I come back to time and again:

I have a confession to make: I love the animated Pokemon series. The style, anime, is attractive. There is no such thing as an ugly anime character. Long have I envied the character Ash. He is on a quest to be the best and it is in his reach; his problems are clear and fairly simple. Plucky as the day is long, he can take advantage of every chance life throws his way. He's innocent and nai'ive but not stupid. He has a Pikachu for a sidekick, and as a best friend.

I envy him because he's found his dream early on and is going for it. Unlike me, who was completely in the dark about what I wanted to be until it was a bit late. He hasn't frittered away some of his chances; he drives himself because he can't wait to get where he's going, rather than out of that quiet desparation because maybe not so much time is available. And his foes, while relentless and implacable, are really rather stupid buffoons (Team Rocket...Jessie, James, and thier principal Pokemon, Meowth). They slow him down but are usually thier own downfall, and in the end Ash wins; his drive and goodness cannot be denied. He has the proper heart.

And honestly, there's not much I can bring to the character; Pokemon isn't (as many are aware) on a level that allows for much depth. I look upon such characters as something I would be if I had the choice to be someone, anyone, else. Though I think I could bring additional depth and intelligence to the persona, two areas that I feel to be my strong points, it could be argued that Ash doesn't need them...I kind of made that point myself already.

After all, I dream these dreams for escape. I am weighed down by cares, and despite my own personal pessimisms, I have the feeling that all my chances are not behind me. There's still room and hope, I suppose.

But if I had the chance I would be Ash, even if for a little while.

See the original post and links to other Slants:
The Saturday Slant - New Every Saturday Morning

Vera!

The health travails of Her Honor the Mayor of Portland has been much in the news lately. Not only does she have a recurrence of cancer (if I read correctly, a rare form that attacks the female reproductive system) but the ongoing treatment of such means she has kidney failure and also has to undergo dialysis three times a week.

I am glad I'm not her. Once again I am reminded that I only think I have health concerns. At this point all signs point to that if I just got off my teller butt and got some exercise I'd be about 100% better off. The Wife[tm] and myself in fact took a nice walkabout in our new neighborhood last night, but that's a digression.

Of Vera Katz, I have always been of two minds. That she is a motivated public servant there is no doubt. Her service in the Oregon Legislature was legendary. While no achievements come to mind (my fault, I really wasn't paying attention (like many in Oregon (which is why things are in such a sorry condition))) she acquired a rep as a master of coalition-building and getting-things-done.

The same vision that she had in Salem just never fit the streets of Portland though. The best example of this was, I feel, when she proposed capping I-405 a few years back. For those who don't know Portland geography, I-405 (also known locally as the Stadium Freeway (for its apparent proximity to Civic Stadium a/k/a PGE Park) and by even more serious locals as the Foothills Freeway (because it runs along the base of the range of hills that hem the city in on its western rampart)) brackets the city center on its west side. It was built between SW 13th and 12th Avenues, then jinxes to the west just a block to run between NW 14th and 15th Avenues north of West Burnside street. At its south end it sweeps to the south and east to join the I-5 at the south end of downtown, where the Marquam Bridge carries that slab over from the east side of the Willamette; at the north it it soars onto the beautiful Fremont Bridge to rejoin I-5 on the east side. It's scarcely more than three miles long.

To forge this freeway link all those urban blocks were vacated and excavated; the freeway itself is below grade. The freeway was left open to the sky, the result being that there is a great trench defining the western edge of the city center, separating it from its close-by densely-packed residential areas that fill the remaining gap between it and Portland's West Hills.

Whilst us Portlanders were dithering over funding urban services and schools, Vera comes up with an initiative to cap that trench, putting I-405 in a long tunnel, and re-completing the urban landscape. The problem was timing. Many Portlanders (myself included) thought that the most appropriate posture for our leaders was to exhibit vision and courage in the current urban problems, which are still our urban problems, and which have more or less been splashed across the national news.

Not that it was a bad idea. It would no doubt have improved the urban fabric (though I pretty much like it the way it is). But it made her look distracted by big-vision dreams when what we actually needed was someone who was hard at work making our "City that Works" (but wasn't) work better.

That, to me is pretty much the story of the Katz mayoralty; she hasn't ruined anything, the city is still up and running, but it could have been better. I never voted Vera; I voted Blumenauer in the first run, and until Potter there really hasn't been anyone worth voting for.

One year I wrote in "Tom Peterson, and Gloria too." Locals will understand who they are.

And Francesconi isn't really worth it; he's a cynical time-server who thought he could buy the mayorality whe a slick campaign and was still bested by Potter, though only by a few votes; runoff necessary.

New Ted Rall

Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11. One of the few honest views of the Moore phenomenon that you'll read...calls him on his faults but finds that that reinforces his crediblity.

Read it!

A question for the group...Consider the following: "Conservative" media celebrities are given a pass when thier arguments are flawed and approaches unfair. "Liberal" critics are expected to have bulletproof arguments, no stones left unturned in utterly scrupulous research, and pure motives. Why the double standard?

Hey, it's a freeish country.