Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Break the silence!

   Jaquandor did a Halloween Quiz Thing, so I will, too.

1. What is your favorite work of horror fiction?

   Not so much into Horror fiction. I've read most of Poe, and a little bit of Lovecraft, but none of it ever really did anything for me.

2. Who is your favorite monster?


3. What horror movie gives you the most chills?

   See answer to number one. No real interest. Don't watch 'em.

4. Freddy versus Jason?


5. Ghosts or goblins?

   Well, both, of course.

6. What is your scariest encounter with the paranormal?

   It frightens me every day thinking about how many people are so seriously deluded that they believe in all that stuff.

7. Do you believe in ghosts?

   Dontcha think it would have been smarter to ask me this question before that last one?

8. Favorite Halloween costume?

   Naughty French Maid...wait, did you mean for me to wear? Never mind.

9. If you had an unlimited budget, what would your fantasy costume be for this Halloween?

   A Ferrari Testarossa driver.

10. When was the last time you went trick or treating?

   Tonight. I took the dog for a walk after the kids thinned out a bit. Stopped by my neighbour's place to say hello. He was just getting ready to wrap it up, and counting up how many trick-or-treaters had come to his door. "Hey," he said to me, "if you say, 'trick or treat,' you'll be my one-hundredth." So I did. I got a Kit Kat.

11. What's your favorite Halloween candy?

   Rockets. Y'all call them Smarties, but we call them Rockets, because we have the real Smarties up here.

12. Tell us about a scary nightmare you had.

   Britney Spears had a new album out. What? That's real? God help us all!

13. What is your supernatural fear?

   I'm afraid that hucksters and scam artists will take advantage of my elderly mother-in-law.

14. What is your creepy-crawlie fear?

   Spiders. Big time.

15. Would you ever stay in a real haunted house overnight?

   As no such thing actually exists, this question has no meaning as stated. If you mean a house that is allegedly haunted, gladly. If you mean a house that is really haunted, provide me with some compelling evidence that such a thing exists and we'll talk.

16. Are you a traditionalist (just a face) Jack O'Lantern carver, or do you get really creative with your pumpkins?

   Pretty much a traditionalist. Not an artist, so I just hack out a rudimentary face and leave it at that. Got a bit creative this year. Carved a pumpkin that looked like this...


17. How much do you decorate your home for Halloween?

   A bit. Matt and I carved two Jack-o-lanterns. Pat put out some skull shaped lights, a cutout of a pumpkin-headed scarecrow, and a couple of witches in the window. My above mentioned neighbour had a half dozen jack-o-lanterns, ghosts and skeletons everywhere, and spooky music playing really loud from a concealed speaker.

18. Do you think Halloween is too commercial these days?

   Isn't everything?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

100 movies: the fourth episode

   Ten more from the list of 100 movies I really like.

The Untouchables - Sean Connery kicks butt and takes names. Dies in the end, as all good heroes should.

Predator - The Ahnold kicks alien butt. Never gets a name.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl - About twenty minutes into this film during its initial theater run, Pat turned to me and said, "we are so getting this on DVD!" We watch it regularly. The second and third editions weren't quite up to the same level, but enjoyable none-the-less.

The Incredibles - Just another one of those hugely amusing Disney/Pixar movies. Disney knows which side its bread is buttered on. When Pixar announced it was going its own way, and no longer wanted any affiliation with Disney, Disney bought them. Take that, little upstart animation company!

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - The best of the Star Trek feature films. Yes, I know that's not saying much. Still..."Khaannnn!!!!"

The Fugitive - Most coolest action sequence in the movies. If you have any kind of sound system, you'll believe the train is really crashing through your living room. We were watching this movie when Pat went into labour. Plus, Tommy Lee Jones=cool.

Casino Royale - Not the original (which I have never seen), but the most recent episode in the James Bond saga...which is also the first story in the arc...but takes place entirely in the present day. No, don't think too hard about that one. Just rent it. Best.Bond.Evar!

Ferris Bueller's Day Off - Yeah, another guilty pleasure. Not really all that great a movie, but hits a chord with just about anyone who's ever been a repressed teen. We all wish we had Ferris' joie de vivre, and devil may care attitude. Too bad this film type-cast Matthew Broderick for the rest of his career.

Hang 'em High - Another one of Clint's old spaghetti western inspired films. This one contains one of my favourite all-time movie lines: "when you hang a man, you'd better look at him."

True Grit - What better way to let John Wayne go on at length than to give him a protege to instruct? Because, honestly, we all can't get enough of The Duke's western drawl.

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Homeopathic bullying exposed

   In my recent traipsing through the skeptical blogosphere, I find that a blogger has recently been censored by his ISP after a legal threat. According to Skeptico (who got it from Orac), the blog The Quackometer, which monitors and reports on dubious, harmful and fraudulent medical practices, has had a post on Homeopathic medicine deleted after his ISP was threatened with legal action by the  British organisation, The Society of Homeopaths.
   I''m jealous. My most recent post on Homeopathic "medicine" was taken down by AOL (with no warning, and no explanation I might add) after a complaint by
one homeopath. The Quackometer was bullied by an entire society of homeopaths. I guess I still have a long way to go to reach the big time...

   If you'd like to see what all the fuss is about (and evidence that bullying really doesn't work all that well), you can find
the offending blog post reproduced in full at Skeptico and several other skeptical blogs around the blogosphere.


   I'm getting a little bit tired of AOL Hometown these days. For the last couple of months I've been getting  bandwidth restriction messages, and little 'red x' icons on all of the images in my journal. I have no idea why, as the (what 25 or so?) readers of my journal can't possibly be pulling down enough bandwidth to pass any limit AOL might have set. Still, (former) Journals Editor Joe (we'll miss ye, laddie) warned me last month that I might not want to depend on AOL Hometown for very much longer. He wouldn't say why, but I got the impression there was some kind of change in the wind. I suspect AOL Hometown storage might go the way of the dodo in the foreseeable future. Joe suggested I move all my pictures to AOL Pictures, but I'm thinking I might go to another storage place altogether.
   So, to that end, I have downloaded every file in my AOL Hometown ftp space (just under 40 Megabytes worth) to a folder on my computer, and am currently looking for suggestion on where to put them. OK, so maybe that wasn't phrased very well. I'm looking for advice on what file storage service to use for the pictures I display on my journal. I'm open to any and all suggestions. What have you got for me?

   Speaking of (former) Journals Editor Joe (we'll miss ye, laddie), it occurs to me that one of the holes he leaves behind is an easy one to fill. For the last several months, Joe has been posting a regular Friday rundown of journal posts tagged with the Technorati tag 'blogplugs'. I've tagged a few entries that way, and have received a few new visitors from it, so there seems to be some value to it. I am willing to pick up that small portion of Joe's regular presence in J-Land on behalf of the community.
   Each week (barring a more official participant, like John Scalzi for instance), I will search out those AOL journal posts tagged with the Technorati tag 'blogplugs', and feature a representative listing on Fridays. Joe, your legacy shall live on!

(Edited Thursday, 10:17PM - The AOL Journals team has picked up the ball over at the Magic Smoke blog, and will be featuring Friday blogplugs there, as per usual, so my efforts in that arena are not needed. Continue to check out the Magic Smoke blog for AOL Journals updates.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A book meme from Dawn

   The common form of these lists seems to be italicise those that X, bold those that Y, and strike through those that Z. Dawn changed that for an italicised comment after each title, and I will follow that format because...well, no reason.

The books listed below are the top 105 books most often tagged as being unread by LibraryThing users (as of October 3rd). I have no idea what LibraryThing is. "Yes," means I've read it. "No," means I have not. Any other comments will, I hope, be self explanatory.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell (read and enjoyed)
Anna Karenina (no)
Crime and Punishment (no)
Catch-22 (no)

One hundred years of solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
(read - honest, all the way through)
Life of Pi
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote (yes)
Moby Dick (no)
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice (no)
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
(first paragraph, then quit)
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates ofhuman societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveller’s Wife (no, but has been recommended)
The Iliad
(pretty much)
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
(no, but my wife raved over it)
Mrs. Dalloway (no)

Great Expectations (no)
American Gods
(quite enjoyed it)
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
(never heard of it)
Atlas Shrugged
(no - not really all that interested)
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha 
(saw the movie - was unmoved)
(not yet, but can't imagine going much longer without reading it)
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales (no, but I'm sure Pat has a copy of it around here somewhere - I probably should give it a shot)

The Historian (no)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
(see above [Atlas Shrugged])
Foucault’s Pendulum
(not yet - if I ever manage to finish The Island of the Day Before, this will be my next choice by Eco)
Frankenstein (no - was supposed to read it for a university course once - never did)
The Count of Monte Cristo (no)
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
(liked American Gods better, but yes)
The Once and Future King (yes, but not sure I ever finished it 100%)
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
(yes, but regret it)
The Inferno
(yes, both Dante's and Niven's version)
The Satanic Verses
(no, but I'd like to)
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
(no - can you believe it?)
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the Ubervilles
Oliver Twist
(no - bad, bad Paul)
Gulliver’s Travels
(yes - the complete, unexpurgated version - very good)
Les Miserables
The Corrections 
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
(over and over and over again)
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes (no)
The God of Small Things
(not yet, but almost certainly will one day)
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
(fabulous book - made a huge impression on me)
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
(Ah, yes, the disgruntled woman's book of cokmplaints about her man...)
The Mists of Avalon
(yes, but not all that special - chick fantasy lit)
Oryx and Crake:a novel
(no - maybe one day - just 'cause I feel obligated)
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
(recommended by a friend, but based on some of the other things he's recommended (homeopathy), probably not)
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey 
The Catcher in the Rye
(yeah, back in high school - never really though it was all that)
On the Road
(can't see it)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
(no, but I should be reading these old classics, shouldn't I?)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
(I'd like to give this one a shot one day - just for fun)
The Aeneid
(Again, pretty sure Pat has a copy here somewhere. But probably not ever)
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
(why does this sound so familiar? Google, google, google...ah, Pynchon - nope, not even remotely interested)
The Hobbit
(many times - once out loud to my son)
In Cold Blood
White Teeth (no)
Treasure Island (no)
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers (no)

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

When the Mondegreens are better than the real thing...

   I was going to write an entry about really cool album titles. The main one I was going to mention was Acts As Bold As Love, by Jimi Hendrix. That's a really cool album title, don't you agree? Unfortunately, that's not actually the title of the second album released by The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
   A little bit of Googling for background information on the album revealed that the real title of Hendrix's sophmore release was Axis: Bold As Love. Not only is that nowhere near as cool as what I thought it was called, it doesn't even seem to speak to me at all. What the hell does 'Axis: Bold As Love' mean, anyway? 

   So, I'm left with Paper at the Gates of Dawn, by Pink Floyd, and The Twelve Drums of Doctor Sardonicus, by Spirit. What's your pick for coolest album title ever?

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

100 movies: part the third

   Here you will find ten more from the list of one hundred movies I really like. This brings the total so far to thirty, with previous installments here, and here. Remember that these are listed in entirely random order, and are not ranked in any way.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Kind of a hokey premise, and I found the ending to be somewhat confusing, and lacking catharsis, but a very well made film. Richard Dreyfus was brilliantly cast as a man just trying to figure out what the hell is going on in his life.

Soylent Green - "Soylent Green is people!" This film enjoys an odd position in my movie liking mindset. I was going to say unique until I realized that it shares its place with another film. Both this movie, and the Clint Eastwood film, High Plains Drifter, are examples of films that I have seen multiple times - at least four or five times each - and really enjoyed, and yet to which I have never seen the ending. Sure, I quoted the climax of Soylent Green above, but I have never actually heard Charleton Heston utter the line. And I have never seen the town of Lago painted red. Something always comes up to pull me away from the TV before the close of each of these movies. Creepy, huh?

Little Miss Sunshine - I think we saw this because the movie we went to the theater to see was sold out. Way better than whatever the hell it was we missed. I laughed harder at this movie than at any other I can remember.

Highlander - "There can be only one!" Yeah, if only that had been true. You know how some sequels are better than their progenitors? Not in this case. And it's not like the bar had been set all that high. Highlander is one of those movies on this list I must refer to as a "guilty pleasure." Poorly conceived and executed at almost every level, it still managed to draw enough of a cult following to spawn three sequels (and, I understand, a fourth currently in production), two live action, and an animated TV series. And the only commentary I can make on that is, "why?" Still, despite it's hokey premise, silly acting, and piss poor production values, the Highlander DVD gets as much play as just about any other on my shelf.

Toy Story - Disney and Pixar hit a home run with this, the first of a series of animated films that have together grossed over four billion dollars at the box office. Yes, I know. I am a sad, strange, little man.

The Lion King - Classic Disney formula here. Young animal must come of age after the death of his or her parent. Always wins, always will.

Mrs. Doubtfire - I originally had Tootsie on this list, but removed it in favour of Mrs. Doubtfire. Tootsie was undoubtably the better film, but Mrs. Doubtfire was funnier. Robin Williams beats Dustin Hoffman in drag any day of the week. I bet you didn't think you'd ever read that sentence.

Gladiator - Ridley Scott will appear on this list several times. Russell Crowe? Not so much. This is a great movie that I haven't watched in far too long. Must get the DVD out again soon.

Blade Runner - See? Ridley Scott again. This film was widely panned when it came out, and did very poorly at the box office. Somewhere, it developed a bit of a cult status, and has now been rereleased to theaters a couple of times, and had the "Director's Cut" treatment DVD release. And now we hear that Scott has done a "Final Cut" of the film that will be released this year in celebration of the movie's 25th anniversary.
   And I still can't get that stupid Sam Spade narration out of my head when I watch the thing.

School of Rock - Total rocking fun. 'Nuff said.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Biting my tongue

   The other day I overheard Mr. Ho talking about Reiki. He is, according to himself, a Reiki practitioner. He was telling someone about how he had performed Reiki on an accquaintance of his, for some ailment or another, and that person had reported an improvement. But here's the thing: he did it over the phone.
   I swear I'm not making this up. He claims that he performed a therapeutic technique on someone over the phone. And that person reported improvement in their condition. That's just funny on so many levels.
   I could have pointed out that there is no
scientific evidence that Reiki has any effect whatsoever, but I didn't. I could have pointed out that the claims made by practitioners of Reiki, and Therapeutic Touch Therapy, were effectively debunked recently by a nine year old girl in her elementary school science fair project, but I didn't. I bit my tongue. I said nothing. I walked away.

   And then, today, I overheard another conversation between Mr. Ho, and a co-worker. Seems he had performed Reiki again last night, on another friend. That friend, allegedly, had been suffering from back problems. According to Mr. Ho, after one half hour of Reiki (in person this time), the friend said her back felt much better.
   I could have pointed out that any person with a sore back, given a half an hour to lie down and do nothing but relax, would almost certainly report improvement in their back pain, but I didn't. I could have pointed out that heat is an effective treatment of back pain, and the laying on of hands transmits heat directly to the affected area, but I didn't. I bit my tongue. I said nothing. I walked away.

   What? He's my boss.