Saturday, February 25, 2006

Goodbye, Mr. Chicken

Don Knotts died last night at the age of 81. While it is no tragedy when someone dies at 81, it is certainly sad that one of the brightest lights in the world has now been extinguished.

Everyone knows Barney Fife, and Knotts has said that he is proud of that role, and is happy to be remembered for it. But whenever I think of Don Knotts I think of two movies; The Reluctant Astronaut, and my favorite The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. In both he played the nerdy, cowardly, but noble and lovable schmuck who finds himself forced to become more than he ever imagined. In Astronaut he was a janitor at NASA who told his family that he was an astronaut, and gets accidentally launched into space, with appropriately silly results. And in Mr. Chicken he plays a nervous typesetter who, in the hopes of becoming a full-fledged reporter, accepts an assignment to spend a night in a haunted house, only to be be-deviled by both mean spirited pranksters, and maybe a real ghost or two. In both films he ultimately triumphs, surprising himself and everyone else with his bravery in the face of real danger, and gets the girl. What better role model for a pudgey, Star Trek loving geek-in-training.

Everything I have ever read or seen about Don Knotts showed him to be a warm, gentle, kind-hearted soul who had the gift of making people laugh. He is an American icon, and I am sure that people will be laughing at Barney Fife, and Mr. Limpet, and NASA janitor Roy Fleming, and typesetter Luthor Heggs for many, many years to come.

Vaya con Dios, Mr. Knotts, and thank you.


I'm Going To War!!(gulp)

Welcome, true believers, to a somewhat contradictory edition of The Corner. There's an old saying that goes 'be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.' As most of you know, I have dabbbled on and off over the last three decades(hay-seuss marimba!) with medieval reenactment in the guise of the Society for Creative Anachronism. The last three years have seen a resurgance of my association with the organization, and I even have armor and bruises anew to testify thusly. Now in March every year there is a gathering in Mississippi called Gulf Wars. It is a war between the kingdoms of Ansteorra and Trimaris, and is a week long excuse to wear funny clothes, hit people with sticks, eat, drink, and be merry. Usually I have a show that weekend and have never been able to attend. This year, however, it cooincides with my Spring Break, and we are not doing anything that would interfere. So, says I to Mrs. Marius, we could go to the war this year. Alas, quoth she, my new job will not allow it, and the young'n's Spring Break isn't till the week after. Sigh, quoth I, foiled again. But then she said, 'why don't you go? You haven't had a vacation in years. I'll get my mom to come up and help with the little 'un.' Really? says I. Really, really, says she.

Make it so!

But now the dread settles in. I have not donned the trappings of a 10th Century Dane for more than a few hours in many years. Nor have a spent a day in armor in many more. Faces have changed, and there will be many I won't recognize, remember, or know. I find myself looking for reasons to back out. But nay, I shan't!! Lord Wihtgar will rise again, gird his loins for battle, and most likely get his medieval buttocks handed to him, but dammit I'm going to have fun!!! I'm going to party like it's 1099, and I'm going to come home bruised, probably somewhat hungover, and hopefully a lot more relaxed.

Now if I can just remember what I did with my tights. ;-)

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Future is Now

I wish to share with you, oh faithful few, a conversation I had with Mrs. Marius last night, that a mere 20 years ago would have seemed completely bizarre. We were cuddling on the couch, and Starbuck, the Kitten of Unbearable Cuteness(tm), was scampering about doing kitten things, when I heard this sentence come out of my mouth.

"Honey, pass me the laser, I want to play with the cat."

Can the anti-gravity boots be too far off?

To infinity...and beyond!!!!

Darth Marius

Republican Dictionary

This was sent to me by my dear friend Deb. I think it clears many issues up.

Have you been as confused as I have, about what exactly is being said in Washington? Now, finally, we get the help we need...

A Dictionary for Republicanisms

alternative energy sources n. New locations to drill for gas and oil.
[Peter Scholz, Fort Collins, CO]

bankruptcy n. A punishable crime when committed by poor people but not corporations.
[Beth Thielen, Studio City, Calif.]

"burning bush" n. A biblical allusion to the response of the President of the United States.
When asked a question by a journalist who has not been paid to inquire.
[Bill Moyers, New York, NY]

Cheney, Dick n. The greater of two evils.
[Jacob McCullar, Austin, Tex.]

class warfare n. Any attempt to raise the minimum wage.
[Don Zweir, Grayslake, Ill.]

climate change n. The blessed day when the blue states are swallowed by the oceans.
[Ann Klopp, Princeton, NJ]

compassionate conservatism n. Poignant concern for the very wealthy
(Lawrence Sandek, Twin Peaks, Calif.]

creationism n. Pseudoscience that claims George W. Bush's resemblance to a chimpanzee is totally coincidental
[Brian Sweeney, Providence, RI].

DeLay, Tom n. 1. Past tense of De Lie
[Rick Rodstrom, Los Angeles, Calif.].
2. Patronage saint
[Andrew Magni, Nonatum, Mass.].

extraordinary rendition n.! Outsourcing torture
[Milton Feldon, Laguna Woods, Calif.].

faith n. The stubborn belief that God approves of Republican moral values despite the preponderance of textual evidence to the contrary
[Matthew Polly, Topeka, Kans.].

free markets n. Halliburton no-bid contracts at taxpayer expense
[Sean O'Brian, Chicago, Ill.].

girly men n. Males who do not grope women inappropriately
[Nick Gill, Newton, Mass.].

God n. Senior presidential adviser
[Martin Richard, Belgrade, Mont.].

growth n. 1. The justification for tax cuts for the rich.
2. What happens to the national debt when Republicans cut taxes on the rich
(Matthew Polly, Topeka, Kans.].

healthy forest n. No tree left behind
[Dan McWilliams, Santa Barbara, Calif.].

honesty n. Lies told in simple declarative sentences--e.g., "Freedom is on the march"
[Katrina vanden Heuvel, New York, NY].

House of Representatives n. Exclusive club; entry fee $1 million to $5 million (See Senate)
[Adam Hochschild, San Francisco, Calif.].

laziness n. When the poor are not working
[Justin Rezzonico, Keene, Ohio].

leisure time n. When the wealthy are not working
[Justin Rezzonico, Keene, Ohio].

liberal(s) n. Followers of the Antichrist
[Ann Wegher, Montello, Wisc.].

No Child Left Behind riff. 1. v. There are always jobs in the military
[Ann Klopp, Princeton, NJ].
2. n. The rapture
[Samantha Hess, Cottonwood, Ariz.]

ownership society n. A civilization where 1 percent of the population controls 90 percent of the wealth
[Michael Albert, Piscataway, NJ].

Patriot Act n. 1. The pre-emptive strike on American freedoms to prevent the terrorists from destroying them first.
2. The elimination of one of the reasons why they hate us
[Michael Thomas, Socorro, NM].

pro-life adj. Valuing human life up until birth
[Kevin Weaver, San Francisco, Calif.].

Senate n. Exclusive club; entry fee $10 million to $30 million
[Adam Hochschild, San Francisco, Calif.].

simplify v. To cut the taxes of Republican donors
[Katrina vanden Heuvel, New York, NY].

staying the course interj. Slang. Saying and doing the same stupid thing over and over, regardless of the result
[Suzanne Smith, Ann Arbor, Mich.].

stuff happens interj. Slang. Donald Rumsfeld as master historian
[Sheila and Chalmers Johnson, San Diego, Calif.].

voter fraud n. A significant minority turnout
[Sue Bazy, Philadelphia, Pa.].

woman n. 1. Person who can be trusted to bear a child but can't be trusted to decide whether or not she wishes to have the child.
2. Person who must have all decisions regarding her reproductive functions made by men with whom she wouldn't want to have sex in the first place
[Denise Clay, Philadelphia, Pa.].

A Thought

Whoever domesticated the cat was obviously tired of the drudgery of sleeping.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Who's Watching the Ports?!

Just when I think I understand the world, and this country, something comes along that just totally baffles me. At a time when unemployment is skyrocketing, and outsourcing is gutting our workforce, why would we allow foreign companies to manage some of our largest seaports? Apparantly a London based company has been managing US seaports in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. That's wierd enough, but now the Bush administration has no problems with the buying of the London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., the company that currently operates these ports, by Dubai Ports, a company in the United Arab Emirates. Bush protests that the Dubai company is in full compliance with US laws, and has vowed to cooperate with all security requirements. He states, "I can understand why some in Congress have raised questions about whether or not our country will be less secure as a result of this transaction but they need to know that our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully."

Members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats have objected to the sale, and requested that the President delay the move for further study. And the loudest objections are not coming from low-level legislators. House Speaker Dennis Hastert(R-Ill) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist(R-Tennessee) have both objected, and there is a proposal to pass a bill to block the sale. And in a further sign that the president is losing touch not just with the American people, but his own party, Bush has vowed to veto any such legislation.

So let's see if I have this straight, we spend billions in Iraq to remove a toothless despot with no proven connections to Al Quaida, the 9/11 attack, or weapons of mass destruction, but we are putting some of our most important seaports into the hands of a country that is known to have been the financial base of operations for some of the 9/11 hijackers, and is suspected in complicity with the smuggling of nuclear materials. Isn't it nice to know that more than two-thousand of our young men and women have died in the desert so we can allow the billionaire sheiks of the United Arab Emirates to monitor six of our most vulnerable areas?

Please, someone, anyone, impeach that idiot before he kills us all!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

How Do Ya Like Them Apples...Dick?

I have purposely avoided the Dick Cheney shooting, since the Daily Show, and PIKARESQUE have already done such a fine job with it, but the interview he gave today has inspired me to point something out. "The image of him falling is something I'll never ever be able to get out of my mind," Cheney told Fox's Brit Hume. "I fired, and there's Harry falling. It was, I'd have to say, one of the worst days of my life at that moment."

It's a little different when you are pulling the trigger yourself, isn't it, Mr. Vice President.

Not that I really believe he's all that broken up about it, but to hear a man who has been directly responsible for so much death claim to be upset at shooting someone with bird shot seems a little disingenuous, wouldn't you say?


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Monday, February 13, 2006

Which Star Trek Character Are You?

Your results:
You are Geordi LaForge

Geordi LaForge
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Mr. Scott
Will Riker
Deanna Troi
Jean-Luc Picard
Beverly Crusher
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Mr. Sulu
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
You work well with others and often
fix problems quickly. Your romantic
relationships are often bungled.

Click here to take the "Which Star Trek character are you?" quiz...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Rocketboom Takes Off

It's Thursday, October 13th, and I'm watching the end of a program on G4 called Attack of the Show. The host is interviewing an attractive blonde from New York named Amanda Congdon. It seems that she has been doing a daily video blog, or Vlog, for nearly a year, and has garnered quite a following. The format is simple, she and her partner Drew post a semi-satirical, totally opinionated three minute segment in the form of a news cast. The subject matter covers everything from rebuilding in Sri Lanka, to geekware toy stores in Manhattan. Normally such an interview would hold my attention for a few minutes, then get sent to my mental trash bin, but something about Amanda's absolute lack of any guile or falsehood stuck in my mind. The next day I went to . I have yet to miss an episode since. The stories are often fascinating, or bizarre, or have a different take on something everyone else is covering, but it is almost always interesting. And one of the best parts is that you can comment on each episode, and unless the comment is vulgar there is no censorship on the opinions. I cannot recommend the site enough.

For the last few months Rocketboom has been talking about trying to make some money from their labor of love. They get hundreds of thousands of hits a day, and they, quite naturally, decided to see if they could get a little compensation for a year and a half of hard, unpaid work. They hit upon a very clever idea: auction off one week's worth of ads on Ebay. They set ground rules: no porn or gambling companies; and they would make the ads themselves and run them after the regular vlogcast. The comments flew fast and furious, mostly in favor of the venture. Some worry that with great cash comes great loss of integrity, others just seem to be sour grapes eaters. But the overwhelming majority, myself included, are thrilled that Amanda and Drew might actually get some reward for being so entertaining and informative. The auction lasted one week, and ended Thursday with a final bid, from someone called starfinder5, of $40,000! And there was much rejoicing!!

Rocketboom posts Monday through Fridays, so the comments have been piling up since Friday morning. When I last checked this morning there were 88 comments, 86 of which were positive. The two negative ones seemed to be from the kind of people who probably kick their children's bedroom door open at 11:59pm Christmas Eve and shout, 'You know there is no Santa Clause!' I couldn't be happier for them, and I encourage everyone to check out the site. They have an archive section where you can go back and see all of the posts from the beginning, which is kinda fun to watch the evolution of a phenomenon.

In any event, Amanda and Drew, congratulations. You truly deserve to reap the fruits of your labors.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Little Less Enthusiasm, I Beg You

Lately there has been a lot of anger and frustration over the 'high price of oil'. Oil companies have been making record profits, gas prices have gone through the roof, and folks are, for the first time since the mid-70's paying attention to those three little letters, MPG. In the last couple of days I have received emails showing photos of an Arab sheik's silver plated Audi, and an indoor ski slope built in the middle of a Middle-Eastern desert. Both messages came with the caption: See what $2.29 a gallon buys. Well, while I can certainly understand the anger and frustration(when it takes $20 to fill my Saturn's tank I get a bit frustrated too), complaining about it is like the chef complaining that the fat man in the dining room weighs too much. We are feeding the monster with nearly everything we do, and it isn't until it becomes inconvenient that we start to complain.

For as long as I can remember scientists, sociologists, and the occasional politician have been warning us about our unprecedented dependence on oil. Most people only think about the gas in their tanks, but petroleum is used in the manufacture of most plastics. Just think about how many items in your everyday life use plastics. Plus most of the electricity in the US is generated using petroleum fueled power plants. There is oil in our cars, our lawnmowers, our computers, our furniture, even the lip-balm we use to keep our kissers supple. As much as I hate to agree with anything that comes out of W's mouth, we are truly addicted to oil. And unless we change our basic ways of thinking and living that addiction is not going away any time soon.

I don't think it is possible to reduce our need for plastics, but we can work on the ways in which we generate and use energy. Politicians have found a couple of buzz words that make them sound like they are trying to solve the problem, so let's look a little more closely at them.

Hydrogen. There is a lot of talk about hydrogen being the next big fuel. Hydrogen fuel cells generate electricity by combining hydrogen with oxygen, and the 'waste' product is water. Sounds great, doesn't it? The President loves to tout his dedication to hydrogen technologies, but there is one major flaw no one in Washington is mentioning. Hydrogen is abundant on our little planet, but not in its pure form. It is pretty much all tied up in compounds, most abundantly water. Most of us performed electrolysis experiments in high school, running current through water to make hydrogen and oxygen, and that's the same way they get hydrogen today. But here's the kicker. The electricity needed to break water down into its constituent parts comes from...say it along with me folks...oil burning power plants. Right now it takes far more energy to make hydrogen than we get back by using it in fuel cells. Eventually there will be a better way to get hydrogen, and I fully expect to see practical fuel cells in common use in my lifetime, but that day is years, if not decades off.

Ethanol. Ethanol has been around for years. By fermenting corn you can make a fuel that will power our gasoline driven equipment. There are places where corn is plentiful that have been augmenting their gasoline with ethanol since the '70's. And everyone knows that we, the US, grow more corn than we use. So, ethanol is a natural, renewable source of cheap fuel, right? Well, yes and no. Just like with hydrogen we need to look at the big picture. While there is some debate over this, it seems that when you factor in the petroleum products needed to plant, fertilize, harvest, and process the corn your net energy savings gained from using it as fuel aren't that great. The upside is that it can be used as an alternative fuel today, but it won't significantly reduce our oil needs in the long run.

So, what's my point? Glad you asked. Rather than waste time, effort, and emotion decrying those who merely feed our gluttonous needs, start making real efforts to reduce those needs. Drive less. Get rid of the monstrous SUV in your driveway. Walk, ride bikes, carpool, use public transportation. Recycle anything and everything you can. If you own your home there are numerous ways to reduce your oil-driven energy consumption. Wind and solar power are practical, affordable, and available for many household uses. Research is making great strides in using such things as ocean waves and tidal changes to generate clean electricity. Electric and hybrid cars are being refined and improved yearly, and the price of these vehicles is dropping rapidly. Simply being aware of the amount of energy you use, and making a conscious effort to reduce it whenever, and wherever possible will make a world of difference. We need to stop blaming others, and take responsibility for our own excesses. The oil will run out, maybe not today, or this century, but it will run out, and unless we want to run out with it, we have to do something today. If not for ourselves, for our children.

Here endeth the lesson. Go in peace.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Radio Drones

Of late I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. There are many musical groups I like, but quite often I like them because of an album or song that is outside the band's usual style or subject matter. Three examples leap to mind: Metallica's Black Album; They Might Be Giants Flood; and Green Day's American Idiot. All three are, in my mind, masterworks, and yet the bands' fan bases seem to feel that they don't measure up to previous work. I have listened to earlier, and later works of these bands, and still find the albums mentioned to be superior, and definitely different. And that's what I like about them. I appreciate musicians who don't just find a formula and keep repeating it over and over(hear that Aerosmith and AC/DC?) I find it hard to fathom why anyone would want to hear the same three songs with different lyrics for fifteen albums. Metallica's earlier work was very gritty, and angry, and rough, and many of their fans resented the polished sound of the Black Album, whereas I like it for just that reason. I have also heard that Green Day fans either love or hate American Idiot, often saying things like, "I liked them better before they quit the booze and drugs." Personally I don't find American Idiot to be that different from any of their earlier stuff; it's just more polished and focused. And I have yet to hear a Green Day album that I didn't like. My own fave, Blue Oyster Cult, had some clunkers in the '80s(Club Ninja being the worst), but at least they were trying new stuff. I welcome change and growth in my music. One of my favorite performers was Ronnie James Dio, who fronted for Black Sabbath after Ozzy left, and then went out on his own after 3 albums with Sabbath. I followed his solo career closely, even saw him live three times, but he had used up all his ideas by the third solo album, and I lost interest.

I know that people sometimes fear change, which is why American Idol is so popular. (Anyone who is truly original usually doesn't make it past the first cut on that televised freak show)(and I'm sorry, Puddy, Clay may be a great person, and have a good voice, but he is hardly anything new musically) But I just don't get how groups or performers can keep making cookie cutter songs and albums, and people hail it like it is a cold glass of Gatoraid in the Sahara. They may not have been the greatest musical geniuses of all time, but I appreciated bands like DEVO, The B-52's, and The Go-Go's just because they didn't sound like everybody else. I'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between Brittany Spears, Christina Aguillera, and Jessica Simpson without looking at them. And the boy bands are even worse. Pop music today is more formulaic than a high school chemistry class. And the rock scene isn't much better. Bands either sound like Limp Bizkit or The Offspring, with the occasional gem like Disturbed or Godsmack. Come on, people. Embrace the new, the original, or someday all music will sound like the stuff they play at the local mall.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Hold Still!


The feline equivalent of mom spitting on a napkin. Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 06, 2006

Decaffeinated Thoughts

Good morning, and welcome to a sleepy edition of The Corner. For the past 5 weeks I have been participating in a clinical study to test a new blood pressure medicine, and today is the last day so I can't eat or drink anything until they draw some blood later this morning, which means (gasp, shudder) no coffee. So, join me in my zombified state as I blather a bit.

I just realized something wierd. In this world of rampant, pervasive, omnipresent advertising I have never seen an ad for either WD-40 or duct tape, yet I have never met anyone who didn't know what both are.

Squirrels are everywhere, running, jumping, climbing trees, mugging people for their french fries, but I have never witnessed a squirrel crapping. I wonder why that is.

I watched the Superbowl last night. The game was very good, but the commercials were rather lame this year. The only ones that were even vaguely amusing were the Budwiser ads, and even they were pretty tame. The puritanical ripples from the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction are still rebounding off of the network programmers, causing an increase in self-censorship and a decrease in cleverness. Even the half-time show, featuring the Rolling Stones, was incredibly tame. Mick Jagger and the gang can still rock the house, and Mick himself is pretty lively for someone in his sixties, but it was a pretty boring set. And the audio mixing was horrible! The first song was Start Me Up, and if you closed your eyes you could easily imagine that you were in a Karoke bar listening to your buddy Stan, who has had too many beers and too few singing lessons, trying to sound like Mick. The rest of the set didn't sound as bad, so I either got used to the crappy mixing, or they fixed it. In any event instead of marching bands, pretty ladies in high boots twirling batons, or any other traditional half-time stuff, we get four aging male rockers and some tired old songs. wheee.
The game itself was well played and came right down to the wire. I have no real interest in either team, so I chose to root for Pittsburg because I have been there once. I believe that they were the underdogs, but I'm not sure. They were victorious,however, and with the exception of a couple of iffy calls by the referees it was a good, clean game.

Well, oh faithful few, that's about all I can squeeze out of these dampened dendrites this chilly Florida morn. Take care, be well, and may Juan Valdez bless you with all the go juice you can handle.


Thursday, February 02, 2006


 Posted by Picasa

Motherly Love


And just what did you sit in, young man? Posted by Picasa