Tastes good as fresh perked!


(Found via Boingboing via RetroThing)

But presumably her fresh-perked coffee tastes terrible. Hrm.


No More HeroesSo I mentioned, a couple weeks ago, that we had room in our tax return for me to get a Wii. The challenge, at least in the Chicagoland area, is finding them. I’ve been looking for one pretty consistently since April first, calling stores occasionally and checking in at every store that carries them every time I pass the store. I wasn’t in hard-core gotta-have-it mode, but I was getting there. So this Sunday, I found one at our local Target:

Me, pointing at the glass case in electronics: Is that a Wii?
Target employee, smiling the grin of the magnanimous, the grin of Santa: Yep!
Me: I would like to buy that Wii.

Two minutes later, a dude with his girlfriend/wife comes up: Oh Man! He got one!
Me: Beat you by two minutes!

So Wii. Some bullet reviews, early on:

  • Wii Sports: as fun as expected. I’ve played Bowling the most, but play Tennis a lot. As my Tennis skill improves and the computer opponents get stronger, I’m more annoyed that the controller isn’t more sensitive. You have very little control over racket angle and ball placement. Makes it hard to net effectively.
  • Wii Play: I wasn’t going to buy this, but it was only $50, and it came with a remote, which costs $40, meaning that the game only costs $10, and the duck-hunting game is pretty fun.
  • Smash Brothers Brawl: this is the game my students and all young Wiifanatics are enamored of, despite the fact that playing this game with the WiiMote is seen as majorly crappy. I bought a couple classic controllers to use for it, so I’m dubbed moderately okay. The general rule, though, is that the GameCube controllers work the best. I like the game so far, but it’s been a long time since I’ve played a fighting game and this one has a lot of whiz-bang in it. I feel kinda old trying to get it, but my Mortal Kombat days are coming back to me. I particularly like “training” mode, where you have an unresponsive enemy to beat up on and can practice combos and moves. I remember doing that in MK–playing 2 player by myself.
  • No More Heroes: A very stylized, amusing, sword-fighting, kill-lots-of villains kind of game. I haven’t played much of it yet, but so far I really like it. It’s also pretty funny, and the stylized graphics are WAY over the top. Kinda like playing Kill Bill. The wii controller is used for finishing moves and to resolve ties. It’s also intentionally amusing that the movement to recharge the sword (a light-saber-type device) looks distinctly masterbatory, both for the player and for the avatar, who hunches over his sword as he jiggles it to recharge.

For those of you who haven’t used it, the Wii also has permanent avatars that can be used in games like Bowling and Baseball, and can be ported from one Wii to another. These avatars, called Mii, are amazingly customizable, and fun. They don’t really do anything though, so oh well.

The new Doctor

Dr. Who and RoseI like the new doctor a lot.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the first doctor on the new series, who seemed like a bit of a football hooligan, but the new doctor appeals to the nerd in me.  Jenny and I just finished watching the first disc of season two, and I enjoyed it all the way.

Spoilers ahead.
Episode 1 featured a return of the Prime Minister from season one, played by Shaun’s mom from Shaun of the Dead.  The end of the episode, after the Doctor defended Earth from the invading force, showed Britain destroying a ship full of villains as it left the Earth unharmed.  The ethics involved were touchy, as the people had clearly shown a threat and only their own ideas about defending a planet via hero-combat saved them.  The Doctor called Earth defended, but he isn’t around all the time.  I feel like the Prime Minister was right, maybe, to blast the villains.

Episode 2 featured a return of the stretchy skinned lady.  Two amusing features:
First, something that happens on SF and fantasy shows quite regularly, the “possessed by someone else” trope.  Buffy relied on this a lot to give the actors something else to do–the best examples being the Halloween episodes or the It’s a Wonderful Life ripoff.  In Dr.Who’s case, Rose and the Doctor are each possessed by the mind of the stretchy-skinned lady from season one, the “last remaining human being.”
Second, this episode also used the standard Dr.Who “villain who comes around” mode at the end.  Stretchy, despite having fought this entire time to survive, suddenly decides it’s okay for her to die.  Sigh.  Like the Dalek leaving peacefully in Season One.  Rubbish.

That aside, quite enjoyable.  I’m going to have to try and get Jenny to watch some of the older ones with me, if they’re available.  We’ll see how that goes–her tolerance for cheesy fx is very low.

Getting things done

I use a sort-of Lazy version of David Allen’s Getting Things Done to manage my tasks.  I say lazy because I’m not as religious about it as I should be.  But I just wanted to note here that the most satisfying bit of the program is moving a bit of paper from one folder to another, or back, or–joy of joys–removing the finished task altogether.  Delight.

Blythe Spirit

For Jenny’s birthday, we went and saw Noel Coward’s Blythe Spirit, performed by the Oak Park Festival Theatre.  This troupe, whom we’ve seen twice before, usually perform in a park; once each year, though, they do a drawing-room comedy in the Oak Park Pleasant Home mansion. It was a delightful play:

  • I particularly enjoyed Connie Anderko and Jack Hickey as Madam Arcati and Charles, respectively.  Anderko played the medium with a bouncy intensity, her arms waving and her voice bursting around the room with gusto.  The play gives the audience the clue that all this spirit stuff is true, but Arcati’s antics certainly read like those of a potential charlatan. Hickey plays the hen-pecked Charles quite effectively.  I particularly enjoyed his exasperated facial expressions during the scenes in which his dead wife’s ghost and his living wife were both talking to him.  (The dead wife, invisible to her living counterpart, would say something snotty and Charles would respond in kind, which the living wife would take to be toward her.)  But everyone was good.
  • The stagecraft worked pretty well — the Pleasant Home’s huge drawing room is perfect for, well, a drawing room comedy.  I have to say that I far preferred the “in the round” setup they used for last year’s Murder by the Book.
  • The least pleasant part about the play was the audience environment.  The seats were very small and close together, so that I had to lean toward Jenny the whole times so as not to rest my elbow on the stranger to my right.  The seat itself was also pretty uncomfortable.  Finally, there was a glass door on the far side of the stage which reflected a couple of the stage lights back most annoyingly.
  • This play focuses on the mystical trend that flowed through the upper classes at the turn of the century.  The seance culture turns up in lots of texts, but it works quite well here.


From the NY Times:

Now that the telephone book has been all but replaced by the minutiae-rich Web, searching out, even stalking, the people who share one’s name has become a common pastime. Bloggers muse about their multiple digital selves, known as Google twins or Googlegängers (a term that was the American Dialect Society’s “most creative” word last year).

This is an awesome word. I have a Google Alerts set up for “Brendan Riley,” and get my own little blow to my ego every day as the two more prominent Brendans Riley get alerts while I get NOTHING. Of course, seven of the top ten google results for me are me. The top is this blog. Yay. Here they are:

And that’s just the first three pages.

Follow-up: I got a “Google Alerts” message about this post.

Music for April showers

  • 3: Buckwheat Zydeco – Includes some awesome covers, my favorite? “Beast of Burden.”  Keith Richards only wishes he could play an accordion that well.
  • Buddy Holly (3 songs) – from movie soundtracks.  Probably better known among today’s youths for the Richie Valens plane crash.  But at least he had multiple hits.  It annoys me that I even know who the Big Bopper is.  As an aside, could you consider the Big Bopper to be proto-hip-hop?  He names himself in a song about how sexy he thinks his girl is.  It’s the 1950s “Thong song.”  Of course, he was white.  If music history holds, I bet I’d find a version of “Hello, baby” made by a black artists in the 1940s that’s both more interesting and more salacious.  Like Hound Dog.
  • 2: Bush – this band, despite their later album, punctuates freshman year of college for me.  I have a distinct memory of someone in Tommy Hall blaring “Gliserine” out a window while I haul a box of my belongings up to the room I would share with a pot-smoking soccer-playing deadhead.
  • 1: Cab Calloway and the Cabbaliers – very enjoyable.  I wonder what I’d call my band.  Brendan and the Rileys, probably.
  • 4: Cake – Very enjoyable.  I love the quirky songs, the covers, the nearly-country twang of their alternative rock.  And they seem so laid back.  Their cover of War Pigs is a delight.
  • Candlebox (3 songs) – I saw these guys in concert, sigh.  The Flaming Lips opened for them, though.
  • 2: Cannonball Adderly – a swing band pleasant in the abstract way all swing bands are.  Most interesting for me, though, is the subtitle of the albums: “emArcy small group sessions.”  That capital A looms tall for anyone who has tangled with Ulmer and his emerAgency.  I don’t know what I will do with that yet, but something should be done.

Jenny’s birthday

It’s Jenny’s birthday, so if you know her and want to drop her a line, her email is jriley [at] curragh-labs.org.


Intermission’s Colin Farrell

We got this movie accidentally — Jenny had seen it already so I was under pressure to get it watched quick.  I liked the multiple narratives interweaving around a number of nodes, but the end didn’t do much for me.  I would have liked to see it continue.  I wonder how you might work this as a television series.  Character narratives could flow in and out as the show progresses, using “slice of life” bits to hook new viewers and making all former episodes available for download viewing to let people get caught up.  You could even break the episodes into scenes for download, and then shuffle by storyline.  You’d have to have an audience interested and willing to buy into it, though.

Colm Meaney is in the film and, as always, is thoroughly enjoyable.

Brain droppings, A.M.

4:55 – Crud.  I forgot to grind coffee beans last night.  Not gonna risk waking Avery, so I drink a Coke zero.  It puts the ass in aspartame.

5:35 – Do you mistype your name much?  I regularly type Brednan.

6:05 – I hear Avery through the monitor, playing in her room.  She’s up about 40 minutes early today, so I take her some juice to keep her happy until it’s time to leave her room and join us for the day.  She doesn’t notice me open the door, as she’s engrossed in a book.  Right now, through the monitor, I can hear her reading her Noah’s Arc book: “Giraffe, lion, lion, pelican.”

6:33 – work time over already.  Email is a horrible quicksand out of which we shall never emerge.


Ham grabs an apple, from SpaceChimps.com

Julie Sinn Cassidy sent me a note about this Space Chimps doc:

 Told through archival photos and footage, space historians, testimony from the chimps trainers, and through the people who fought for the space chimps peaceful retirement, One Small Step, The Story of the Space Chimps explores the compelling journey of the brave United States Air Force chimponauts from their primate predecessors and early rocket tests to Ham and Enos as they made their ground breaking missions into space.

Go check out some of the clips on the site.  And please note that a portion of the sales gets donated to the Save the Chimps foundation, a retirement community for the Space Chimps.

The Scarlet Letter

by Nathaniel Hawthorne; narrated by Dick Hill

This post resides firmly in spoiler city.
The Scarlet Letter

  • Somehow, this is the first time I’ve read this book. I didn’t see the movie, either. In my high school, there were multiple “tracks” of literature that meant one group of students read one set of texts (I read 1984, A Tale of Two Cities) and not others (I didn’t read The Scarlet Letter, Brave New World). Nonetheless, I felt like I had a pretty solid popfinition of the book. I knew going in, for example, that Hester Prynne had to wear the letter for having committed adultery. I also knew Reverend Dimsdale was the other half of the adulterous pair.
  • I did not know what the plot of the book would be. I assumed it would involve the fall from grace and betrayal of Hester Prynne by Rev. D. I thought the scarlet letter would be the denouement of the book, not the opening salvo.
  • Plot question: How early in the book are we supposed to figure out Rev D. is Pearl’s pop? I knew all along, but I tried to figure out when the book wanted us to know. To no avail.
  • I liked Hawthorne’s introduction about his time working at the customs house and the old men who do nothing there. Plus, I always enjoy intimations of authenticity like the one Hawthorne uses.
  • I spent most of the book trying to figure out what kind of book it was to be. First, I thought it would be a tragedy. Then, once we saw the A, I thought it might be a mystery (who’s the baby’s daddy?!) with Roger Chillingworth as the detective. Nope to that one too. Then, I thought it might be a revenge tale ala Othello, but for all RC’s bluster, it seems like his revenge mostly consisted of enjoying watching Rev. D. squirm. In the end, I’m not sure how to classify the book.

I oscillated between boredom and interest pretty evenly throughout. Dick Hill did a solid job with the narration, but the ponderous prose just doesn’t translate to the spoken mode as nicely as it could. At least, not for me.

Finally, from Chapter IV, a worthy quote:

I–a man of thought–the book-worm of great libraries–a man already in decay, having given my best years to feed the hungry dream of knowledge–what had I to do with youth and beauty like thine own?

The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes

1935.  Holmes, descending into retirement, takes one last case to catch the elusive Dr. Moriarty.  He gets involved, somewhat obliquely, and Holmes ‘catches’ him at the end.  Sigh.  It was moderately entertaining, but the sound quality is pretty terrible on the 1930s movies in this set, so it was difficult to follow.  I enjoyed the bespeckled sidekick and Watson’s bumbling, and the image of Holmes fishing out the window with an umbrella worked pretty well for me.  I also liked the moment when the detective, assured by Holmes that they had no more need of the body in situ, tells the butler that he can remove the body now.  Geez.

Triumph of Sherlock Holmes: The boss of the scowlers threatens cecil barker

The film also features a long flashback sequence told by the widow of the victim.  She tells what essentially turns out to be a hard-boiled detective story, about her husband the renowned Pinkerton detective who broke up a vicious gang of thugs that ran a small coal town.  (The photo above shows the boss of the Scowlers threatening Cecil, the man whose death brings Holmes to the manor.)  These thugs swore revenge and it was through Moriarty’s help that they found the victim.  The priceless name of these bastards could have come straight from a Dick Tracy story: they’re The Scowlers.

Worth my thirty-eight cents:

Triumph of Sherlock Holmes: Watson nudges Holmes

Throughout the film, Holmes keeps snubbing Watson by forgetting to introduce him whenever they meet someone new.  Watson, for his part, gets bent out of shape about it, nudging Holmes in the ribs and getting a constipated look on his face.  Here’s the usual exchange:

Police Inspector: Mrs. Witness, may I present Sherlock Holmes.
Mrs.Witness: How do you do, Mr. Holmes?
Holmes: How do you do, Mrs. Witness?
Watson [elbows agitating furiously]: ahem
Holmes: Ah yes.  May I introduce my colleague, Dr. Watson.
Mrs.Witness: How do you do?
Watson: How do you do?
Holmes: On the night of the murder…

There is obviously some humor already at work in this setup, but it gets doubly funny when one considers that Watson is played by Ian Fleming, of James Bond fame.  I like the imagine that Bond is suave and debonair in all the ways Watson was not, and that perhaps Fleming imagined himself not as the bumbler of these films but rather as we see Bond fifty years later.

Follow-up: As I finished writing the above, it occurred to me that the Ian Fleming in these films was pretty old to be in espionage 5 years later.  So I checked IMDB and found this sentence: “Not to be confused with the creator of James Bond.”  Well, shit.

This is a big mental jump, but it makes me want to go back to my idea for the namesake series.  In looking back at that post, I see that Jeff Rice’s suggestion of Charlie Brown and Chuck D has been lost.  I think Brian Doan also suggested some. Darn.  Anyway, there seems to be some Derridian value in the idea that the man who played Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick and the man who created James Bond had the same name.

Animal care

Aquarium Care:

I’ve been somewhat lax in my weekly 10% water swap of my aquarium, so when I did it several days ago, I found that enough water had evaporated that the tank (35 gal) was about 5 gal short of full. So after giving it a few days to acclimate the new water, I added 5 more gallons today. It’s amazing how much quieter it is when the water isn’t falling 2 inches from the filter. Loads quieter.

The battle of the snails continues. I scraped about 75 out the other day, and another 20 or so today. There are still a bunch in there, but when I was at the pet store I found out that Clown Loaches, cool looking fish in their own right, will eat snails. Kick ass. I’m going to get me some of those. They cost $9 each, but it will be worth it. At the same time, it feels a little weird setting up a predatory environment in my otherwise pleasant aquarium. But those snails are annoying.

Kitty care:
Hermes has a bunch of mats, so we’ve been cutting and pulling them out when he deigns to rest on our laps. With the windows open now, he’s not really deigning much today.

Dog care:
A confluence of bad weather, very busy schedules, and laziness meant that it wasn’t until today that I had sufficient time and energy to tackle the horrible task of picking up the winter’s harvest of dog poop from the yard. It took me nearly 90 minutes, and I would say I netted somewhere in the realm of 30 pounds. Between that and the two bags of dirty diapers in our trash can, I do not envy the can explorer who opens that blue plastic cylinder of death. And to make it worse, I’m slogging my way through the audiobook of The Scarlet Letter, so I was pretty bored too.