Saturday, July 31, 2004

Back Again: I spent the better part of the last week in Tucson, Arizona at the Miraval, Life in Balance, Resort and Spa where I got stabbed with needles, balanced on top of a telephone pole, basted and slow roasted, and just generally was taken care of for a change. A full accounting will be forthcoming.

I also took pictures (shock and awe!), but there is only one that I think is worth sharing: this one (it's about 175k). It's a picture of the one of the pools with the mountain vista in the background. I may share some others after I use them as experimental photoshop fodder.

I also finished Garrison Keillor's Summer 1956. A beautifully written book, but if you are used to the innocent Lake Wobegon stories, the explicit nature of this book may shock you. The main character is a 14 year-old boy and Keillor doesn't spare the sexual obsession and toilet humor that define that age. Keillor may be the only writer in the world who can frankly portray the lurid mind of an adolescent boy and still make it sound like poetry. More to say about this in the future, too.

Give me a couple of days to sort myself out and then I'll be back with more thrills and spills.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Extreme Makeover:  You ever look around and think, I'd really like to throw away my house, my job, my body and my website, and just start over and redesign everything properly? 

No?  Well then forget I asked.  I'll just provide you with these links and we can keep going just like before.  But if you don't hear from me for a while, you'll know what I've been doing.
  • For all you golfers, try this course.  Par 11,880.

  • HBO News: Minor Deadwood spoiler.  I have it on good authority that Wyatt Earp comes to town next season.

  • David Chin wrote to let me know about his site, A Picture's Worth, which is a "personal, non-commercial project that aims to highlight the emotions and memories that can be triggered by a photograph."  Long time readers are giggling now, reminded of my struggle to actually take a picture.  They also know full well that I have enough trouble generating a 1000 words.  But if I did have some good photos, A Picture's Worth would be a decent place to put them to use.

  • Bob Probert, former Detroit Red Wings thug…er enforcer, apparently got arrested during his first day on the job as  a bouncer in a Florida night club.  Probert, who is as tough as any brain-dead, psychotic coke-fiend, resisted arrest for buying drugs, apparently oblivious to the fact that when it comes to cops, five for fighting means five years.  I don’t know about you, but I think a Mike Tyson vs. Bob Probert pay-per-view would net millions for Comcast.

  • Kids today don’t know nuthin' about rebellion.  Most of them apparently like their parents. Why, back in my day, we were fighting in the streets.  With our children at our feet…

  • This is fun. has gone through Amazon and excerpted some of the deeply negative reviews for critically-acclaimed works.  For example, about the Wizard of Oz: "For one thing, I don't like to watch things with witches in them, especially if one of them is portrayed as a 'good witch' - that's an oxymoron I can't reconcile with." Readers chime in with more.  Here's one on the King James Bible: "Apart from the leather, this book isn't really any good."  Take a moment to enjoy.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

What Up:  Apple Pie inches closer to re-release.  Misspent Youth inches closer to being about half done.  This site inches closer to redesign.  Summer inches closer to Fall.  (And I inch closer to the grave.) 
I am in the process of reading three funny books that I picked up in the remainder bin.  CEO of the Sofa by P.J. O'Rourke, Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 by Garrison Keillor, and Tricky Business by Dave Barry.  All will get a good review once I finish them.
Yes, that's right.  Unlike many reviewers I actually read the books I review.
Eye Candy: Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle came on HBO just recently, and two things occurred to me.  1) What hath The Matrix wrought? and 2) Bill Murray is no assclown.
1) CA:FT is loaded start to finish with the 360 degree view, stop action wire stunts that began with The Matrix.    Memo to Hollywood: This is no longer cool enough to dwell on.  But at least it's better than a bunch of chatter and, to its credit, CA:FT is very light on the chatter.  Over-the-top action mixed with lots bare flesh are what this movie is about.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  If the pace keeps up, if it doesn’t take itself too seriously, you get a middling piece of eye candy.  If the narrow plot and 2-D characters have at least some sort of coherence, you get a good piece of eye candy.  The first Angels was good eye candy, this one is middling.
Seriously, we need to get over the hyperactive, CGI-pumped Kung-Fu antics and get back focusing a smart camera angles and clever choreography.  Nothing here is as compelling as the fight scenes Bruce Lee did in Enter the Dragon 'round about 30 years ago.
2) Bill Murray doesn’t return to his role as Bosley.  The role was given to Bernie Mac.  The Bosley role also changes from a classically comic bungling sidekick (as portrayed by Murray), to a brainless assclown (as portrayed by Mac).  If Bill Murray knows anything, it's the difference between comedy and assclownery.  Witness the difference between Carl Spackler in Caddyshack, and virtually any role in the abysmal Caddyshack II, which Murray stayed away from.  This is why Bill Murray gets to do top notch pictures like Lost in Translation while every other SNL alum is in the casting director's file under 'A' for assclown.
Here's something odd.  20 or 25 years ago I would have given odds that John Cleese was going to be the dominant comedian/actor of our times, what with The Pythons and Fawlty Towers and a couple of decent flicks -- Clockwise, A Fish Called Wanda -- under his belt.  And here is Cleese taking a bit role in CA:FT (playing Lucy Liu's dad -- ??), while Bill Murray and Oscar are mentioned in the same sentence.  Never would have guessed.

Anyway, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is not worth renting.  The best part is the hot chicks and chances are you've seen them in various stages of undress over the years anyway.  It is worth catching on HBO or ultimately TNT, TBS, USA, WGN, Comedy, Sci-Fi, on down to Community Access, if you’re looking for a pointless distraction.
Tech Notes:  If you have any sort of need to have a set of files that you can access from any computer -- for instance, you're working on a novel or a piece of criticism and you travel a lot but your laptop is a pain to bring with you so you occasionally need to work on a strange computer in a hotel somewhere, or say you need to access files at home and at work -- the most important thing you can own is a USB flash drive (also called a pen drive or a key drive).  It's a little 2- inch long plastic gizmo that plugs directly into most modern computers, including Macs, and appears to the computer as a regular drive.  These things come in various capacities.  I have 32 meg, which is pretty much all you need for a bunch of doc files (an entire novel only takes about 500 k), and it cost me all of twenty bucks.  You can get them at any electronics or computer store.  Here's one at Best Buy that's twice the capacity of mine for $25.  Indispensable.
As you may have heard, Google started a mail service a while back similar to Yahoo or Hotmail, except they offered a full gigabyte of storage space.  Effectively, that means if you don’t have any mail with big attachments, you will never have to delete a message again.  Nice, but there's a better way to use it.  A gigabyte of relatively safe online storage is very effective as an off site back-up mechanism.  So what I do is just send any documents or files that I want to have backed up as attachments to messages to my own Gmail account.  I never use it for any other purpose and do not give out the address, so no spam comes in.  Not the purpose Google had in mind, but it's as convenient as can be.  Now I can get to my work if my condo burns to ground and my laptop melts in the file.  Since Yahoo and Hotmail are likely to come close to Google's capacity eventually, you're not limited to Google accounts, which are not available to the general public yet (although you can buy them on eBay).

Thursday, July 08, 2004

OK, Here: My own personal tale of two cities (DC & Chicago) is available for your dining and dancing pleasure. It is long and contains more than a couple of pissy rants. I realize it's bad form to go off on my pet peeves in the middle of a travel story.

But it's the way I am.

Friday, July 02, 2004

It's All in the Re-writing: So I had my DC/Chicago article about 80% done and I stopped to read it over. It was like 15 pages long and filled with off-topic rants about all sorts of things. It made sense in my head as I was writing it. So I'm going to trim some of the rants and possibly turn them into seperate posts. With any luck I'll have all this sorted out by the time you get back from the holiday weekend. For now, I only have some links to offer:
  • The perfunctory design site of this post is the listing of 2004 Industrial Design Excellence Awards. Lots of great kit and other intriguing stuff. Notable, however, by it's ommission is the remarkable DVD Rewinder.

  • If you are doing any document design (web or otherwiese) it's probably worth taking a look at the free doodads at Tiger Direct Art. Fonts, clip art, textures and border graphics -- I snagged a font here for use in the new edition of Apple Pie.

  • The greatest comedian of modern times, Mike Tyson, is back in the news. He claims to be homeless and living like a bum due to all his debt but is trying to turn his life around, adding this quote for his future biographers: "I ain't the same person I was when I bit that guy's ear off." Now how many people can say that?

  • Speaking of sports, the very best sports journalist in existence, Bill Simmons, now has his own page at ESPN. He's one of the few who understands that information is secondary to entertainment in sports. Delve into the archives for some fun stuff.

  • If you ever wondered what it is like to be a writer, here is your answer.

  • I gave up Michael Moore bashing a while back. Other people do it better. Example: this Chistopher Hitchens review of F-9/11 wherein he demonstrates a stunning talent for sustained hostile eloquence. Instapundit has a round up of other Moore reviews and news. This blogger dug up the late, great critic Pauline Kael's review of Roger & Me, which shows his suckiness is nothing new. And it looks like they are not especially keen on accepting him back in his hometown of Flint, MI. Perhaps it's because he is a Big Fat Stupid White Man.