Saturday, August 27, 2005


Saturday Night Boozing

I think I've mentioned this before, but I'm a big fan of all things fermented, with only a very few exceptions.

We're watching Lost in Translation tonight, something we've seen before but which I decided to TiVo anyway. I never feel like I've really seen a film until I've seen it at least twice. A nice film--excellent freshman effort from Sofia Coppola.

And there's my segue back into alcohol, since there are those little pink cans of sparkling wine (Champagne only comes from the region of Champagne, and I'm sure I've said more than enough in a couple of years' worth of blogging to piss of the French already) named for Sofia Coppola.

Tonight we're drinking an excellent find. Kendall-Jackson's 2002 Collage, a blend of 76% Zinfandel and 24% Shiraz. It has the jamminess of a Zin with the pepperiness of a Syrah/Shiraz. And, it goes with tomato sauce, which I find most wine doesn't. $6.99 on sale at the local supermarket. Definitely worth it.

And, when the bottle is polished off, I've decided to have a small tumbler of Ardbeg Uigeadail. Somehow, I think it's better than the Santori whiskey Bill Murray is hawking in Lost in Translation.

Friday, August 26, 2005


A Pop Culture Blog?

Wow. Posting about television increased my traffic three-fold, and the post actually garnered some comments.

Should I just start posting about television, film, and video games, and screw academia?

I guess I'll get started on television shows 11-20 right away.

Monday, August 22, 2005


Top Ten Shows

I saw this over at Rose Nunez's blog, No Credentials, and couldn't resist opining, since television viewing has likely taken up a good one-third of my life thus far. Jeff Jarvis says you aren't aren't supposed to list "dutiful" shows. Okay. Here goes.

1. Star Trek: This has been my favorite show since I first saw "The Immunity Syndrome" at my grandmother's house at the age of five. Classic science fiction and great chemistry between "The Big Three." Good allegorical episodes and good human epsiodes. There are also no easy answers to the big questions raised, as in "A Private Little War," a thinly-veiled Vietnam allegory in which Kirk defends his decision to arm the Hill People to fight against the Villagers, who have been armed by the Klingons. A great show, but also one that is like going home to visit family. In fact, the death of DeForest Kelley was like losing family. I met him once--a very, very nice man.

2. South Park: Nothing makes me laugh harder, and by God, I don't feel guilty about it, either. Just finished watching the kindergarten class president episode, and the parody of the 2000 election was dead on. This show, unlike the unjustly touted Daily Show, takes swipes at all sides, and all of them are well-deserved, like the episode with Saddam and his "chocolate chip factories" in heaven and God's complete inability to see through the deception. On South Park, everybody gets served. And if you don't agree with me, well, then I've got something in my front pocket for you.

3. Family Guy: This was almost number two, but South Park beats it by a smidgen. However, this show has made me lose a contact once or twice, I've laughed so hard. I think my favorite episode is the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory parody. The Chumba-Wumbas singing to the crippled Joe: "What do you do when you're stuck in a chair? / Finding it hard to go up and down stairs. / What do you think of the one you call God? / Isn't his his absence slightly odd? / Maybe he's forgotten you." That's evil and I shouldn't laugh, but I do. Not quite until I pee my pants, but awfully damned close.

4. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The best of the modern Treks, none of the gaggy PC crap that plagued The Next Generation or the crappy writing and acting that plagued Voyager. I didn't like it when it first came out, but it gradually grew on me, and I've recently rewatched the whole series, thanks to SpikeTV and TiVo and Netflix. The best episode? "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges." Agent Sloan, of the secret "Section 31" tells the somewhat naive Dr. Bashir, whom he's tricked into undertaking an ethically dubious mission, "The Federation needs men like you, Doctor. Men of conscience, men of principle, men who can sleep at night. You're also the reason Section 31 exists. Someone has to protect men like you from a universe that doesn't share your sense of right and wrong." Damn straight.

5. Battlestar: Galactica: The new one, not the old one, though I confess that the old one is a guilty pleasure. I was dragged kicking and screaming into the remake. "Starbuck's a chick?!? Bullshit PC casting." Was I wrong. This is not your father's Battlestar: Galactica, but it's one of the best shows on television right now. No surprise that the people behind Deep Space Nine are involved--it has the same moral and ethical ambiguity that made DS9 a classic. Still not sure what they're going to do with the fight between the militaristic Adama and the touchy-feely lefty President Roslin, but they are not making the politics simple, that's for sure.

6. As Time Goes By: I almost didn't put this one on, because it is technically a "dutiful" show, as anything starring Dame Judi Dench must be. But I love this show, and am about to plunk down $150 for the boxed-set DVDs. Spending half an hour with Jean and Lionel is like putting on your most comfortable stay-at-home outfit, and Judy, Sandy, Alastair, Rocky, Madge, Mrs. Bale, Lol Ferris, and all of the rest are fantastically well-written and well-acted characters. I almost cried when this show was over, and I still find that watching the final episode makes me sad. I wanted Jean and Lionel to stick around forever, reading Winnie the Pooh and other classics in that big, feather-stuffed bed in their comfy, Holland Park flat. Lionel, I'll join you down the pub for a swift half any day.

7. Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law: You have to have watched a lot of Hanna-Barbera cartoons as a kid to get this one, but former superhero Birdman is now an attorney, and he defends his fellow cartoon characters in court. Highlights include "The Dabba Don," in which Fred Flintstone is a Tony Soprano-style mob boss (complete with a BEAUTIFUL opening sequence of Fred driving through Bedrock to a parody of The The's Sopranos theme song) and another episode in which Shaggy and Scooby are up on drug charges, pulled over while driving The Mystery Machine. (Turns out they aren't stoned--just really really stupid.) This is one of the most clever cartoons on The Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim," and I hope for a few more seasons of it. Hah hah!!

8. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer: Another one I was dragged into kicking and screaming--sounded like a really stupid premise, and more MTV style programming for Generation Y, or whatever the hell they're called--but a show which I wound up really enjoying, at least up through season five, with selected episodes in six and seven. Joss Whedon is a good writer, and he understands how to do tongue-in-cheek without going over the top. The characters are well-written and well-performed (save for the poor girl who played Tara), and there's just a comic edge to this show that the various pretenders haven't managed to capture at all. Plus, Charisma Carpenter's a babe. Why isn't she on television anymore?!?

9. Barney Miller: Yes, I did watch television before the 90s. This was a classic 1970s sitcom, with a fantastic ensemble cast, in all of its various permutations. James Gregory's appearances as Inspector Luger are probably some of my favorite moments, particularly those last episodes, where he orders the bride from Asia. And we can all thank God that Yemana doesn't work at our local Starbucks. James Gregory and Jack Soo, rest in peace.

10. Magnum, P.I.: I'm not sure how to explain this one, save to say that a couple of years ago, I stayed up every night until 3AM to catch the reruns on the Hallmark Channel, reliving fond memories of watching them at my parents' house back in the 80s. Great ensemble cast, and just a fun show. The whole Vietman vet angle always worked well--the camaraderie between Thomas, Rick, and T.C. always seemed real and undefeatable. And of course Higgins: "Oh . . . my . . . God, Magnum!" Hard to believe Jonathan Hillerman is a Texan. Tom Selleck's camel toe can be a bit offputting at times, though. Why did men wear such short shorts in the early 80s?

Okay, so I'm supposed to put this little baby at the end of this post: .

This was fun. Maybe I'll do 11-20 on my own.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


And Apparently I'm Catch 22

You're Catch-22!

by Joseph Heller

Incredibly witty and funny, you have a taste for irony in all that you see. It seems that life has put you in perpetually untenable situations, and your sense of humor is all that gets you through them. These experiences have also made you an ardent pacifist, though you present your message with tongue sewn into cheek. You could coin a phrase that replaces the word "paradox" for millions of people.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.


I'm Ulysses?

You're Ulysses!

by James Joyce

Most people are convinced that you don't make any sense, but compared to what else you could say, what you're saying now makes tons of sense. What people do understand about you is your vulgarity, which has convinced people that you are at once brilliant and repugnant. Meanwhile you are content to wander around aimlessly, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. What you see is vast, almost limitless, and brings you additional fame. When no one is looking, you dream of being a Greek folk hero.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Hmm. Interesting to be a book which, I must confess, I've never read.

Do I really not make any sense? (No answers from left-wingers, please.)

I am content to wander around aimlessly, though, particularly here:

There was a York episode this morning on Location, Location, Location. I need an all-expenses paid U.K. trip.

Friday, August 19, 2005


Winston's a kind fellow, isn't he?

I've known Winston for about a year. If you've been reading him and his wife, you have, like me, come to appreciate their keen perceptions on politics and culture, and the strange progeny which springs from the union of the two (politics and culture, not Winston and Julia...get your minds out of the gutter for a minute, will ya?). I, for one, consider myself lucky to have ever found myself running in the same circles as he and his wife.

So, it's something of an honor for me to have Winston describing the instrument which I wield as being able to, "speak my mind." That's pretty much elevated from what I've always classified as, "having a half-baked opinion on just about everything, and being socially careless enough to speak about them in public fora." So, I'm printing out his brief but potent introduction for framing later before I write something here which makes him change his mind.

And, since I mentioned it, I'll start with a short comment on Cindy Sheehan.

I've never liked Demi Moore. Not even when she was the still-unaltered-by-plastic-surgeons Demi Moore, and before she became trying-to-relive-my-twenties-with-Astin-Kutcher Demi Moore. And, while I thought she was the wrong choice to play JoAnne Galloway in A Few Good Men, she was, nonetheless noteworthy for using the term "Persian bizarre". For years, I've tried to figure out a good way to work the expression Persian bizarre into conversation in reference to something that had really gone awry because, the way Demi delivered the line, Persian bizarre, you just know it had to be the be all, end all, of "out there," and much more polite than saying, "F***** up."

So, for lack of looking, or for being too wound up in my own personal dramas and/or pursuits, in the 13 years since Demi uttered those words, I've not found a situation worthy of earning the term, Persian bizzare.

At least, not until I started paying attention to Cindy Sheehan.

The fact is, inarguably, the event of her son's death is a tragedy, as are the deaths of any of the brave men and women who've been sent to Iraq to fight.

However, at the risk of sounding like an unsympathetic, heartless crumudgeon, Cindy's actions and the ensuing media tidal wave that's come crashing into the living rooms of American homes during news broadcasts has, without any equivocation, earned Cindy a trip to Perisan bizzare, as in, "In what Persian bizarre state of mind do you have to be trapped when you actually believe that it's reasonable to expect that your son, who's enlisted in the military, could never possibly be sent to fight at the behest, and on behalf, of his country?"

Perhaps that's the wrong question. The statements which Cindy's made in regard to her inability to wrap her brain around the idea that Casey got sidetracked on his way to GI Bill Scholarship money, and was killed in the process are really not as Persian bizarre as the hows and whys of her renewed and continued campaign against Bush. Now, if you're even thinking about mounting some damned-fool argument about deceptive recruitment practices, the hand is raised, and you need to talk to it. It's the military, not a scholarship organization or vocational training school with a great fitness program and free clothes. Fighting and dying is implicit, (despite reduced military mortality over the past 25 years), and that fact isn't buried in the fine print. Cindy's going through the motions, because I'm sure she knows these truths.

And from reports from most other sources that aren't generated by Cindy, Casey knew those truths too, and that suggests that the kid had some character.

Too bad it didn't rub off on mom.

"Syme, you miserable, cold hearted (fill in your favorite personal epithet here), you're coming down awfully hard on Cindy, and those comments are probably just the emotional outlet of a grieving mother," is something you might be saying right about now, "Cindy isn't Persian bizarre at all."

I'd almost be inclined to agree with you, and accept the title of cold-hearted (fill in your favorite personal epithet here) humbly and quietly, if Cindy hadn't started whistling a different tune than she was a year ago, when she and Bush first met. In June of 2004, she was nearly gushing about the effort GWB made in order to express his condolences, but now, she's on a tear to vilify Bush, joined by, and as many news cameras as Cindy can round up. To be honest, I don't know who's pulling her strings, although, it's known that she's in bed with MoveOn, and is associated with that fat guy from Detroit, the one who makes movies ala Photoshop, but that's not really the point. The point is that it's no longer a grieving mother looking for closure and expressing her grief about her dead son, it's about Cindy Sheehan, her newly discovered moral indignation, her ego, and how long she can stretch her fifteen minutes of fame while standing on the casket of her aforementioned dead son.

Hell, if you ask most people, they know Cindy Sheehan, but the lion's share have no idea that her son was named Casey. That mom's grabbing headlines and advancing the agenda of political opportunists based on this tragedy is a disservice to the life and sacrifice of the son. That it took her almost a year to figure out she could be media-flavor-of-the-month by serving up Casey's death and memory so it could be spun by shameless idealogues confirms, for me, that Cindy Sheehan has earned her status as Persian bizarre.

It was worth waiting 13 years to make such an association.

So, with that, I'm off to frame and hang my thumbs-up from Winston. Hopefully, after this, he won't retract it, or take back the keys to the place.


New Addition to the Team

As I said a few weeks ago, Winston's Diary will be making some changes in the weeks to come. One of those changes is the incorporation of new blood, in the form of a poster who will be going by the name of "Syme," a character from Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four who works as a philologist on the Eleventh Edition of the Newspeak Dictionary. If you've read the novel, you may remember Syme and Winston having conversations about Newspeak over gin in the lunch room, and that Syme is eradicated for reasons unknown. Like Winston, perhaps he knows too much.

I think you'll like Syme, and I'm hoping that his ability to speak his mind without worrying about losing his job--Syme isn't an academic--will bring some fresh air into this blog and perhaps get people reading it again. Like me, Syme has lost patience with the political left, but unlike me, he has to deal with them in the real world, instead of the ivory tower. I think that makes him a little more sensible than I am.

Julia and I will still be posting here, and we'll both be making a sincere effort to post at least a few times a week. I do have some stories to tell, and I will be making the effort to tell them while still hiding enough information to avoid outing myself.

Also, Winston has a new email address, and Julia will soon be following suit: I've changed the email address in my profile.

I'm not sure when we'll be getting our first post from Syme. He's reading around on the blog, and looking over some of the blogs and sites I've linked to, to get an idea of the greater conversation we're all taking part in.

So, if you like what you see in weeks to come, pass the word. We had a pretty good conversation going here for awhile, and my own inattentiveness allowed it to deteriorate. I'm going to try to rectify that.

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