The Great Collection Review proceeds

After all 5 discs of Alice in Chains, which kinda blend together, despite the interestingness in Jar of Flies, I’m plowing through the As.

  • 1: Allison Krauss & Union Station: in one of those weird synchronicity moments, Allison Krauss was on Sesame Street the other day.
  • 1: The Allman Brothers Band
  • 2: Amaryllis – instrumental Celtic Music
  • 3: Andy M. Stewart – An Irish folk musician I first encountered during a concert in College.  He’s one of my favorites, but my father liked him even better; two of these discs were Dad’s.

Leap Day Challenge 2008

leap day challenge 2008

Do it.  Link so I can see too or join the facebook or flickr groups.

Leap Day 2008

Whew! Close call.

Just as I nearly ran out of address labels, down to 10 from the Heifer International and a handful of “Vote Democrat,” I got a bunch from Handyman magazine and the WWF.

That’s a relief after I threw away a couple dozen labels with “Brenda Riley” on them.

I use the ethics John outlined for book sales on charitable request mailing labels: if I didn’t ask for them, I can use them whether or not I send a donation.

Leap Day Mix

Someone on my Leap Day facebook group suggested some music to listen to on Leap Day. I have these songs to suggest:

Leap Day Mix

Jump gets used a lot more than leap, for some reason.

Spotting more people I recognize

Jenny and I watched Galaxy Quest tonight. I’d seen it before, but not for a while. Aside from the delight of seeing Tony Shaloub in my favorite of his roles and of seeing Enrico Colantoni again (Oh WB, why did you cancel Veronica Mars?), I noticed a couple other people in the film that I hadn’t remembered were there:

  • the “I’m a Mac” guy plays the young nerd who helps the captain land the ship.
  • Sam Rockwell plays “Guy,” crewman number 6 who is afraid he’ll be killed at any moment.

Most shocking, though, is the surprise appearance of Rainn Wilson:

Rainn Wilson and Eric Colantoni in Galaxy Quest

I wonder if Dwight likes Galaxy Quest, cuz that would be kinda weird.


Jenny and I watched Chalk via Netflix’s “Watch It Now” feature. It’s a convincingly-made mockumentary about four or five teachers in a high school, one of whom is brand new and has no formal training as a teacher. It touches key nerves and, for the first bit especially, comes off as very real. The students in the film are amusing and their behavior rings true.

I especially enjoyed the third-year teacher who is “running” for teacher of the year. This trailer does convey some of the funnier moments of the film, but it makes it look like the one guy is the main focus of the film, when really it’s pretty evenly split between the four teachers.


Wink, wink, nudge, nudge


So this guy stops outside my office (door ajar, but not wide open) and knocks lightly on the door.

“Come in,” I say, encouraging him to push the door open, which he does.

“Um, hi. I’m Roger.” He has a nervous quality, and I’m reminded of the Monty Python stereotype of a man trying to figure out if a particular corner shop sells smutty books. “I, um … buy books.”*

I smile genially. “Oh. I don’t sell them.”

“Oh,” he says, seemingly relieved, “okay.”

He turns to walk down the hall. “Bye, Roger,” I say.

Oddly, just today I found three unsolicited exam copies of books waiting on my desk. I wonder if the book buyers have some sort of radar for such things.

* There is a small army of folks who buy and re-sell exam copies of books, which are supplied free to professors who might decide to use said books in their classes. I’ve never really figured out the ethics of selling such books, except to say that I don’t feel right about it.

Leap day challenge: meme

I hereby initiate a Leap Day challenge:

  1. If you are reading this before leap day, consider yourself tagged. Do your best to spread the Leap Day challenge.
  2. On Leap Day, February 29th, take a photo (or have someone else take a photo) of you leaping in the air.
  3. Post that photo on your blog, making sure to tag your image with the phrase “leap day” or “leapday”

Here’s the kind of photo I have in mind:

The leap!

Surprising cliffhangers

Blake’s 7One of the things I find most irritating (yet important) about watching television as it airs is the cliffhanger.  I enjoyed Alias quite a bit, but every other episode was a ‘to be continued’ just as Sydney fell off a building or got shot in the face. Watching shows on DVD generally means you don’t have to put up with this nonsense.  You can just click over to the next episode and watch away–gratification no longer delayed.   Of course, there are still end-of-season cliffhangers, but those too can be solved if you wait until all the shows are out before you start watching.  In this model, the only true cliffhanger will be the Blake’s 7 trick (in which the season ends with a cliffhanger only to be canceled).

That said, Netflix gets in the way.  I just finished watching disc 2 of season 1 of Battlestar Galactica (which is the first 4 episodes of the series, disc 1 being the miniseries that spawned the show) and find myself stuck like a regular T.V. viewer.  Episode 4 is a cliffhanger, and episode 5 is on a different disc.  Since I watched the show via Netflix, I can’t watch ep 5 without ordering up the disc next.

But can’t you just fast-track disc 5?

Alas, no.  As I’ve blogged before, I do poorly in my progress through the queue, so I have strict rules that govern moving things around.  One of these rules is, roughly, no moving series discs up because I’m excited about the series.

that’s stupid.

Yeah, but there it is.  So, before I see BG season 1 disc 3, I’m going to see Slither, Civil War disc 1, Band of Brothers Disc 5, Return of the Living Dead 3, Reno 911! Miami, Ballykissangel season 1 disc 2, Severed: Forest of the Dead, Broke, Call of Cthulhu, Dr.No, and Redneck Zombies. 

An ethical question about copyright

As I’ve said before, I try to follow copyright law as much as I can. I figure that by respecting the law we have now, I’m in safer ethical space to argue for changes in it. (I don’t judge, though. I think this highly contested area is something each person has to navigate themselves.)

My dilemma today, though, goes to a bit of doohickery I picked up at the mall yesterday. I’ve been eyeing this particular purchase for years, and finally decided I couldn’t do without. I bought a self-contained video game thingy that hooks directly up to the television. Unlike the Pac-Man/Galaga one that I have, though, this one is kinda sketchy. First, it has 76,000 games on it. Admittedly, many seem to be repeats or alternate versions of games, but the beginning menu that lets you select games does have 76000 listings. It also has a number of games I’m sure haven’t been added legally: Super Mario Brothers, Contra, Dig-Dug, Millipede, Mario Brothers, and many more.

So my question is where the ethics for verifying copyright lie on the consumer’s part. When I buy something from someone online, I can tell from the site and method whether the product is likely to be pirated. If I bought something from a dude on the sidewalk or working out of a van, I’m in a similar boat. But this is a machined, produced product. It comes in a box with shrink wrap and Styrofoam. More importantly, it is sold at a permanent kiosk in a mall, and has been sold there for years. Is it reasonable to assume that established vendors in established commercial properties are selling legitimate goods? If I suspect those goods are not legitimate, is it ethical to pass off the moral responsibility for that act of piracy on the merchant?

I say all this from the position of someone who decided it was, in fact, the merchant’s responsibility to make sure the goods he’s selling are legitimate. If I can’t trust an established merchant in an established commercial venue, who can I trust?


as per r-b’s request, I’m adding some photos of the product in question. Notice that: a) no brand names or product names on the box; b) there are Star Wars photos (ep 1 lightsaber battle); c) there’s a weird montage of photos on the back; d) it’s made in CHINA – the world capital of copyright violations. Very suspicious.

Power Player

Power Player SW closeup

Power Player, back of the box


is excellent. I’ve heard comparisons with The Princess Bride and I can say they’re apt, though I wouldn’t say it’s as good as the Cary Elwes vehicle. Jenny and I agree that the story and world are amusing and inventive, and the story itself works nearly as well. The two places I would say The Princess Bride comes out on top are:

  • the villain: as creepy and sad as Michelle Pfeiffer is, she just can’t compare to Count Rugen, the cowardly/scummy prince, or Vacini (Wallace Shawn).
  • the dialogue: while the dialogue in Stardust is not bad, it isn’t snappy nor memorable the way TPB is.

These minor flaws aside, though, it’s a great film. DeNiro’s performance is particularly memorable, and lots of the minor characters are amusing (particularly Ricky Gervais’ skeezy salesman).

Finally, I always enjoy recognizing bit players from one movie in another. We recognized three in Stardust:

  • the dude who plays the reporter from Notting Hill who follows Hugh Grant to the hotel room AND the detective partner from Keen Eddie shows up as one of the dead prince spirits.
  • one of the two dudes from Little Britain (david williams) plays another of the dead spirits.
  • Finally, the goat/servant is played by Ron’s dad from the Harry Potter movies.

That last one was the most satisfying, because Jenny and I discovered it together as follows:

me: I think I’ve seen that guy before (referring to the guy who plays the goat)
jenny: wasn’t he in Brother, Where Art Thou?
Me: no, that’s Tim Blake Nelson. This guy’s British.
jenny: Oh, he’s Ron’s dad.

Darwin’s Radio

By Greg Bear

More and more, in the last few years, I’ve come to enjoy good hard SF books by folks like Robert Sawyer. I’m going to have to add Greg Bear to my regular reading list. Darwin’s Radio is excellent.

The book supposes that the punctuated equilibrium theory of evolution is actually correct, and ponders the moment of just such a punctuation. While I can’t speak to the science very thoroughly (it rings true, from what little I know of genetics), the politics and the people in the book are spot on. Though Bear was writing a decade ago, the developments in post 9/11 USA have shown just how much we’re willing to trade civil liberties for freedom, and his book plays on that question remarkably.

It will take an act of will (though not a major one) to avoid reading the next book right away. I’ll wait a bit, but I plan to read Darwin’s Children sometime within a year, for certain.

The Measure of a Man

written and narrated by Sidney Poitier

I enjoyed this book a fair amount, though the end gets a bit long. I think they could have shaved a disc. That aside, Poitier tells a remarkable story about the way he believes his early life on Cat Island in the Bahamas set in place a perspective that grounded him for his later breakthrough work in Hollywood. Poitier crafts this book as a “spiritual autobiography,” spending as much time talking about life and its lessons as he does about his life and how he learned those lessons.

One moment stuck with me, though. Poitier discusses, at one point, the challenges placed in front of him by the racist culture and class struggle in U.S. culture. He was not held back or down by these challenges, he says, because his early years on Cat Island gave him a specific attitude about himself and his place in the world. Here’s the clip, which is NSFLE (not safe for little ears) and a little bit NSFW, I guess.

Sidney Poitier on Racism

Click the little sound icon to listen, or click the link to download/play the mp3.

Christian dating

Christian dating

This ad appeared on the Comics Curmudgeon today.  I’m curious about the values espoused in the bullet points versus the image.  The text says that you can meet many people who are Christian (or profess to be), for free.  I’m a bit perplexed about the decision to say it’s a Safe Christian community.  Are there unsafe Christian communities?  I checked and found that while you can “join” for free, there is a pay function.  Also, nowhere in the Terms and Conditions does it actually say you have to be a Christian to join.  There might be non-Christians there!

Most shocking to me, of course, is the photo which differs in no way from the photos for other singles’ sites.  Shouldn’t this person be a bit more reserved?  Standing in profile to show off one’s chest and tiny waist doesn’t seem very reverent to me.  I don’t mean to imply that Christian singles shouldn’t be seeking sex, but this struck me as a little odd.

Finally, I’m amused by the choice to post the ad for the site on Comics Curmudgeon, a left-leaning snarky website that regularly makes fun of Wizard of Id when Johnny Hart or his ghost writer gets too religious and treacly.

I don’t care about stupid golfers

The Chicago Tribune crosswords have been nutty for golfer names this week. It’s all “WPGA Julie” or “Golfer Aaronson.” Let this be known and declared throughout the interwebs: I don’t give a rat’s ass about golfer names, and do not want them to be clues in my puzzles any more.

That is all.