Magneto & X
Following the trend of spin-off movies (first starting with the planned Wolverine series I mentioned), it looks like Magneto may be given his shot:
    Sheldon's screenplay will show Magneto seeking revenge for the murder of his family in a Nazi concentration camp, watching him discover the extent of his powers, and the start of his friendship with Professor X (played by Patrick Stewart in the X-MEN films.) Xavier was an allied soldier that helped liberate the prisoners in the concentration camps during World War II. After the conclusion of the war Xavier and Magneto meet and become friends, united by their mutant powers that they hide from the public's eye. Eventually their two different perspectives on the rise of the mutants begins crumbling their friendship, turning them into rivals.
Sounds like a decent pitch, but with all movies, the writing will be key. Certainly are enough mutants in the Marvel Universe to warrant a tide of spin-offs; I'm sure that Gambit could warrant his own series without even a mention in X3, whenever the hell that comes out.


'Roid Rage
In case you haven't been watching sports news, or news in general, over the past few days, here's a quick recap of the recent steroid revelations:
    Jose Canseco: admitted steroid user, MVP
    Ken Caminiti: admitted steroid user, MVP
    Jason Giambi: admitted steroid user, MVP
    Gary Sheffield: unknowing steroid user, so he says, MVP runner-up, batting champion
    Barry Bonds: unknowing steroid user, so he says, 7-time MVP
The fact that what we know comes from information leaked from grand jury testimony is disturbing in itself about the integrity of our legal system. The concept of sealed testimony in the courts, an essential tool for compelling witnesses to tell the truth, has now been embarrassingly set back by some loose-mouthed person. I won't be surprised if we start hearing witnesses or lawyers balk at testifying in front of future grand juries, using this as a precedent.

And they will all have a valid point. Perhaps instead of pleading the fifth, a new colloquial phrase of 'pleading the Barry' will creep into the national lexicon. Better still, when people ask if you can keep a secret, a commonly wry response may become, "A Barry Bonds secret, or a secret?" Or after hearing some private information, we can respond with sarcasm, "I'll keep it Barry secret," just to add a playful hint of the mischief to a promise.

It's tough that the legal system has to take it on the chin for this. However, we all knew that the legal system had its flaws, just as we all knew that Bonds was taking some kind of illegal substance to enhance his performance.

No one can deny that Barry Bonds has hall-of-fame caliber statistics over his career. But, never in his prime years of his 20's did he come close to the achievements of the past few in his late 30's and 40's. He has seemingly thwarted the effects of time, and speculation naturally followed as to how he was able to do this. If he had merely kept hitting the ball as he had for the first 15 years of his career, there wouldn't be as much question as to his methods. But his power and hitting over the last few years has been nigh unbelievable. Especially for a guy who is now in his 40's. Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post lays it down more succinctly:
    The jaw-dropping irony of Bonds is not that he used steroids to improve himself or slow athletic aging, but that the particular cocktail Anderson handed him actually worked too well. While other cheaters merely prospered, he rose to the skies like a god. He became so great so suddenly and stayed so young so long that his lie became larger and easier to read than the 25 on his back.
In other words, there is good, and then, as I'm fond of saying, "maybe too good." Using my vast (vast) knowledge of literature, one could analogize that Bonds, like Icarus, flew with his wax wings too high and paid the price. But for every Icarus, there is a Daedalus; in this case, that would be his best friend and substance provider Greg Anderson. If Anderson provided substances to Barry and didn't tell him what they were, as his best friend, that is bad enough, but as Michael Wilbon points out, it doesn't make sense considering the habits of the man:
    I don't cover much baseball anymore, but I have had a couple of extended social interactions with Bonds. I've spent enough time with him over the last couple of years to know that he's too narcissistic, too smart, too hands-on and too curious to put something into his body without knowing what it is. His body is his temple. Bonds can tell you how many grams of fat are in a 10-ounce filet mignon and how many teaspoons of sugar are in one 16-ounce serving of Coca-Cola, so while he might have thought "the cream" was some kind of miracle salve to help fight arthritis, I'm struggling to believe he wouldn't know every single thing about "the clear" before he put it into his mouth. The only way Bonds didn't know is that he didn't want to know, that he wanted some kind of plausible deniability if it was found out he took the stuff. The notion that he flat-out didn't know what he was doing just strains credulity.
The ramifications of this for baseball are being felt around the league as we speak. A potential trade of Sammy Sosa, the Chicago Cubs slugger, has been killed thanks to steroid speculation about this star. Sammy's numbers, like Giambi's and McGwire's before him, are suspected of having been enhanced by the drugs, and owners aren't going to wait for another leak to confirm. Wilbon goes on to suggest that asterisks be put on Bonds and McGwire's achievements, a characteristic that I forsee being a part of Sosa's home-run numbers in the not-to-distant future.

So, where does that leave us? Well, I think that Maris' record of 61 in '61 still stands as the modern-day mark to beat, and Ruth's 60 in '27 as the 152 game mark. That only two people in the history of baseball achieved 60 home runs (Hank Aaron never did it) in 80 years and then three players crushed the record in the last 8 should have been indication enough that the wax in these players was soaring them inhumanly high.

Of course, my twisted brain functioning as it always has, immediately thought of an appropriate comedy sketch to encapsulate the controversy. If Saturday Night Live or South Park doesn't do something with a certain film, I'll be sorely disappointed. My own brief interpretation:
    Barry Bonds sits in the pit of a stone well, reading his player statistics. Subtitles read, "2001". A bottle on a string appears above him, dangling in front of him.

    Barry: What's this?

    Voice: (offscreen) It rubs the lotion on its skin.

    Above Barry, holding the string, is his buddy, Greg Anderson.

    Barry: What's in it?

    Greg: It rubs the lotion on its skin.

    Barry: Why?

    Greg: It rubs the lotion on its skin, or it doesn't get more 'dingers'.

    Barry pauses, thinking

    Barry: So it helps with arthritis?

    Greg pauses.

    Greg: Sure.

    Barry: (applying liberally to his body) Great!!!
I wish I had more time for character development, but what's the point. Truth is stranger than fiction.


He went on to have quite a career
I'd be hard-pressed to say that cooking with monkey isn't the cutest thing I've ever seen. Hard-pressed like a vice. I got such a kick out of these.
Friday Eerie Stuff
Here's a great clip that you need sound on your computer to appreciate. Part of description as thus:
    Supposedly this is a car commercial that never aired. I'm thinking that it is more probably a very good student project using Computer Graphics. About 2 seconds into the "commercial" notice something moving along the side of the car, like a ghostly white mist that looks humanish.


New DVD notes
This was a big week for DVD releases, but none bigger than Spider-Man 2, one of the most satisfying comic book movies ever, rivaled only by X2. The package boasts over 10 hours (sheesh) of bonus features, most of which I predict I'll never get around to watching. However, I'm always interested in blooper reels, and the one provided was the highlight of my evening. I was in tears watching the repeated attempts of Alfred Molina (Doc Octopus) to drink a sip of whiskey held by one of his mechanical arms.

In contrast to Spider-Man 2's success was the mediocre Daredevil from early 2003. I remember feeling, upon leaving the viewing, that I'd seen a portion of a film, that there was much more to be seen than what I was given. Had I not seen the director's cut of Riddick, I might be able to shrug off the newly, 30-minute expanded Daredevil director's cut that was just released as filler. But I can't so easily do that anymore.

UPDATE: Damn Amazon.com! And damn Kate Beckinsale! I wanted to get just Daredevil DC but there she was taunting me for an extra 16 bucks. Oh well. There are worse fates.


Mr. & Mrs. Jones
Clearly having superior pulchritude to yours truly, the team of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will be playing husband/wife assassins who don't know each others' occupations, in next summer's Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Although borrowing a title from a 40's film and a plot from a Nicholson one, I didn't click to the interesting trailer until I learned that Doug Liman (most recently of Bourne Identity fame) was directing. Now I have something to look foward to this summer. Of course, that is a joke, as both Revenge of the Sith and Batman will be out.


X-Men Movie News
Via Cinescape, we finally get some news on the next X-Men movie and, yes, the Wolverine series. Series, you say? They are already plotting the sequel? You bet. In an interview with X-Men producer Lauren Shuler, she spilt the beans:
    But when she spoke about the newly announced WOLVERINE film (that 25TH HOUR writer David Benoiff is scripting), Donner gave away far more information that hasn't been revealed before. "The plan is to do more of an origin story for Wolverine," explained Donner to CHUD. "If that's successful, my deepest desire - I'm not reflecting Fox but you never know - my deepest desire is after the origin story, which David has worked out beautifully, it's really good - if that works, the second one could be the Mariko, ninja story."

    Donner is referring to the 1980s Wolverine mini-series written and drawn by Frank Miller which expanded upon Logan's ties to Japan, the samurai code and his marriage to Mariko Yashida, the daughter of a Japanese noble. The producer explained that she had already given star Hugh Jackman the comics which explained Wolverine's journeys in Japan and his role in the ninja conflict. "That whole Mariko love story is phenomenal because he gets down to his basest self and it's so cool," Donner elaborates. "But I think you have to do the origin first to educate the broader audience, and once you've done that and they know his history and what really happened to Logan then you can move on. You can go on to Mariko and her father and that stuff."
The graphic novel is one of the great comic stories ever. But, what of X3? Shuler can't help but confirm plot details there, too:
    Among the tidbits learned from Donner is that the door is still open for Joss Whedon to possibly direct X3; and that the storyline for the third X-MEN film will include the legendary Dark Phoenix story arc from the UNCANNY X-MEN comic book series ("with new storylines and characters," added Donner.)
Most of us familiar with the comics recognized the hints at the end of X2, but it's good to know they are going to treat the story. The storyline is from X-Men comics issues 129-137 (
purchase them as a set here), and contains a who's-who of character appearances. The battle at the end would be quite something to see filmed. In any event, required reading for you neophytes.
Shoe-in and maybe with a shoehorn
A few comments on the playoff status of the NFL teams I pull for based on this week's games, some obvious and maybe some wishful thinking. For only the third time in league history, the Eagles clinched a division title in 11 games with a convincing defeat of thw second-place Giants yesterday afternoon. Although this would normally be something to get excited about for us Philly fans, this simple fact is that until we play the NFC Championship game, it is business-as-usual.

As I've said to many a fan by Week 3, we are just waiting to get back there and have another crack at it. Although I will stop short of saying that a Super Bowl win will be the only way to validate the season, it would be more satisfying than getting the NFC Championship game monkey off our backs. However, I feel that if we do get over that hurdle, then we are going to win the big game, loosely based on what the Red Sox did after they beat the Yankees. Even though the Super Bowl represents a bigger challenge, if the Eagles win the Championship game (for the first time in over 20 years), then a great burden of expectation will be lifted, and we can then soar on the flapping wings of T.O.

(Also would like to take this opportunity to thank the Redskins for making this title even easier than the last three. Also, I should note that after 11 games, Joe Gibbs has yet to get as many victories as Joe Paterno.)

But, against who? The Patriots? The Steelers? The Colts? This year, the AFC is a much tougher conference record-wise, and there are many teams in the hunt for a playoff spot. Maybe it's sentimentality, maybe it's the drugs, maybe it's just rooting for the underdog, or maybe it's just stealing Jaquandor's thunder, but after the Bills crushed Seattle at home this week for yet another sound victory, I think they have a chance. Yes, they are 5-6 right now, but let me list some factors which have compelled me to spout like a madman:
  • They have the weakest remaining schedule in the AFC; the total number of wins of their next four opponents is 10.
  • The offense is finally playing up to their defense, with McGahee running wild and Bledsoe not wetting the bed.
  • In order for the Bills to get a wild card, they will need some help (read: choking) from the teams with better records; this weekend went a long way towards that with the Jags and Broncos both losing to go 7-4, only two games ahead of Buffalo.
Of course, the final game of the season is against the Steelers (in Buffalo), and I think that the Bills might just be playing for their playoff lives in that game.


The Raping of Riddick
One of the surprise sci-fi/horror hits of 2000, Pitch Black, launched the career of Vin Diesel, who plays convicted felon/killer Richard B. Riddick in the film with charismatic chutspa. So powerful was his performance, and so lucrative the bank from the film, a sequel was ordered and David Twohy was allowed to continue his vision.

The result was 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick. My impression from the trailer was that the film was going to be quite a ride, so I dutifully bought my ticket for this summer's showing. The film, if nothing else, is a visual masterpiece, full of amazing sets, CGI effects, costuming, lighting, you name it. On that level, it is a science-fiction fan's wet dream. I remember thinking, "damn, how much did this movie cost?" while marveling at the numerous effects.

Chronicles had more than just effects, though. Its villains, the Necromongers, are trying to convert the universe to their religion, which requires undergoing a painful tranformation (and basically turning onself into some sort of undead creature). In one scene, a defiant subject who refuses to give up his faith has his 'soul' ripped out by the major bad guy. This was both particularly chilling and fascinating to me. These people defiant in their own faith, are now suddenly confronted with the choice of conversion or having your soul destroyed. There will be no afterlife, in other words. I haven't seen that kind of persuasion in a film before, but that's just one of the extra little things about Chronicles that makes it more than your average film.

Diesel is once again commanding and riveting as Riddick, and with supporting roles from Judy Dench and Thandie Newton, there's no shortage of interesting characters. Unfortunately, none of these characters were developed that much, and the plot was, well, confusing. I found it difficult to figure out the motivations for characters, and the whole film seemed, well, incomplete. A little more here and there, and you could have had a great film. Instead, I left the theater, knowing I'd seen a good film, but having this disturbing sense that something had been left out. Why else would Twohy spend all this money, time, and effort to produce a hollow film that he envisioned?

Tuesday, I bought the director's cut DVD of Chronicles the day it was released. Despite my reservations of the theatrical release, I still enjoyed the film, and thought that perhaps Twohy would add some extra stuff in the film that made it better. Boy, was I wrong, that little '15 minutes' of extra footage entirely changed the movie. Plot lines that were vague were explained, characters were fleshed out more, and action sequences were actually enhanced. I watched the film with both new excitement and disgust, for while I was thrilled at the new depth of this great film, my anger towards the studios grew. There is no other way to put it than the title of this blog. This film was raped by the studios. I encourage everyone to rent the director's cut of this film, even if you were put off by the theatrical release, EVEN if you aren't a Diesel fan. (Here's a professional review to give you an idea what you are in for from Walter Chaw.)

As a footnote, I've been a moderate fan of Pitch Black, but after this experience, I've ordered the
Pitch Black director's cut to see if I'm missing another great movie left on the cutting-room floor.


Star Wars Trailer TONIGHT
It has been confirmed that the new Episode III trailer will be on Access Hollywood tonight. Set your VCRs or TiVos or just watch.

Some images have already been leaked; you can see a few here. They are amazing. An allegedly shot (you'll see why it's alleged) of Darth Sidious is disturbingly fearsome, while the shot of Anakin, Palpatine, and Dooku looks to parallel Luke's decision at the end of ROTJ. Only this time we know it won't go well for Anakin.

I'm titillated.

UPDATE: Can't wait for the trailer? See the promo clip here (via Force.net).

AFTERMATH: If you missed it, or wonder what were some of the things you saw, here's a shot-by-shot description from TF.N, again. If you missed it, the teaser will be shown again today on E! News Live. And if all else fails, and you swear allegiance to Baal, I taped it.


If only I had checked my lunar calendar
The Red Sox are destined for tonight's Game 4 victory, not because they are a hotter team on a mission, but because it will be the first time a full lunar eclipse has occured during a World Series Game. If that's not a curse reverser, what is?


The throes and woes of PSU football
    We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

    We judge of man's wisdom by his hope. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

    He that lives upon hope will die fasting. -- Benjamin Franklin
It's not very much of surprise that this weekend's Penn State - Iowa contest ended up making ESPN's bottom ten list; the final score was Iowa 6, PSU 4.

Yes, that's correct. Two field goals versus two safeties. I watched most of the game, and I can tell you it wasn't as frustrating as it sounds. It was more. Our offensive was terrible; twice we were 1st and Goal and could not score a single point. One 25-yard field goal missed wide right and an interception on the 1-yard line will do that. To the shock of the company in my room that afternoon, I actually flailed to my knees screaming "NO!!!" when we just barely missed blocking a punt, knowing that we had just missesd our best scoring opportunity.

Towards the end of the game, probably 8 or 9 minutes left, Iowa was faced with a 4th and 7 from the PSU 30. Instead of attempting the 47-yard field goal to go up 9-4, they elected to punt. This was probably the most insulting point of the day, as Iowa no doubt knew it was more valuable to put us in bad field position than to get more points, knowing our offensive couldn't possibly move the ball 50 yards. Well, 90, really, because our kicker couldn't make a 25-yarder.

But there was hope. Penn State's defense has played great all season, and this time was no different. Against a team that had racked up 33 vs. Ohio State (I should say the dreaded and now dreadful Buckeyes), we held them to a mere pittance. They could not run, they could not pass. Late in the game (immediately following the aforementioned goalline interception), the Hawkeyes had the ball on their own 9, with 3rd and 11; I declared that it "wasn't so much 3rd and 11, but 3rd and GOAL for our defense." Our defense and special teams were our best scorers that day, and I think Iowa was actually relieved to give the ball back to our feckless offense.

Our defense has held opponents to 14.5 points/game this year, which should be enough to win games. It certainly is enough to keep hope alive every game, as we are in it until the bitter end every time. (Except once -- at Wisconsin, losing 16-3, but I'm proud to have held the 8-0 Badgers to their lowest Big Ten total this year, in their house. This only demonstrates our defensive prowess more.) However, defeats become all that more crushing when you hope to the bitter end.

Why put up with the bitter defeats? Why not point and blame and yell for Paterno's head? Any change is good change, right? Well, I think this team is an inspiring group our guys, and I like that we are in every game. I think that we fight it out and take it on the nose and are still going to get up and play our guts out next time. And if that isn't enough, maybe there's this:
    In the end, the story of Penn State’s homecoming game with Iowa was not one of victory and defeat but of the class and dignity displayed by young men who are really too young to possess so much wisdom.

    After giving up more turnovers than points earned, after hearing their own homecoming crowd boo them, after watching the offense squander golden opportunities, after watching steady Robbie Gould miss two kicks, it was time for the Nittany Lions to let the finger pointing begin.

    Everyone knew it would happen. The media served up the questions and waited for a melee to begin. And waited. And waited.

    Because Penn State’s roster is jammed with kids who continually demonstrate uncommon class in tough situations and withstand the natural temptation to make excuses, they’ll be waiting forever to hear the Lions blaming one another. Maybe it is the effect of the Penn State way, maybe it is good parenting, or maybe these guys just truly believe in one another – still.
I'm proud of these kids, and proud of our alma mater, and proud of what JoePa is instilling in these guys. Class, dignity, and maybe, just maybe, a victory next week. I hope.

BONUS DETAIL: Incidentally, the only thing that kept my sanity after that game was my paraphrasing of an old Pavement song. I turned bitter misery into whimsical victory by taking their song "Two States"(from the classic Slanted and Enchanted album) and making it about two safeties. Note that I did not leave out the '40 million daggers'. It was either that bit of inspired singsongery, or murdery.

UPDATE: I was looking for some statistics to back up my claim that we had a great defense, but I didn't expect to find an interesting comparison between us and Wisconsin, the 8-0 Big Ten leader (and current #6 in the country):
    Minnesota........... 8 37 33 0 0 8 0 279 34.9
    Purdue.............. 7 31 30 0 0 8 0 240 34.3
    Michigan State...... 7 23 21 1 0 12 0 197 28.1
    Michigan............ 8 27 20 2 0 13 0 225 28.1
    Northwestern........ 7 23 20 0 0 7 0 179 25.6
    Indiana............. 7 21 17 2 0 7 0 168 24.0
    Illinois............ 8 22 20 0 1 8 1 180 22.5
    Iowa................ 7 19 16 0 0 9 0 157 22.4
    Ohio State.......... 7 15 15 0 0 15 0 150 21.4
    Wisconsin........... 8 20 18 0 0 9 2 169 21.1
    Penn State.......... 7 15 14 0 0 3 3 119 17.0

    Wisconsin........... 8 7 5 0 0 7 0 68 8.5
    Penn State.......... 7 10 9 0 0 11 0 102 14.6

    Purdue.............. 7 11 9 0 0 9 0 102 14.6
    Iowa................ 7 13 12 0 0 8 2 118 16.9
    Michigan............ 8 19 19 0 0 4 1 147 18.4
    Ohio State.......... 7 17 15 0 0 7 0 138 19.7
    Minnesota........... 8 19 19 0 0 9 0 160 20.0
    Michigan State...... 7 18 17 0 1 10 0 157 22.4
    Indiana............. 7 25 25 0 0 12 0 211 30.1
    Northwestern........ 7 26 22 1 0 11 0 213 30.4
    Illinois............ 8 33 27 2 0 7 0 250 31.2
That, my friends is the INCH when they say the game is about inches, and how slight the difference can be between being a champion and in last place.


Clones -- old school style
Over the past few weeks, I've had Star Wars on the brain more than usual. Yes, for those of you who grasp the implication, I am now using 13% of my grey matter instead of the usual 10. Do not be frightened. Mine will be a rule of benevolent dictator.

There have been quite a few events stoking the fires along these lines of recent. First was the much-anticipated, dare I say drooled-over, arrival of the Star Wars DVD's. I've been very impressed with the quality of the films. A New Hope look vibrant. Recently, there was the spying of the Episode III trailer, which isn't out yet. Note that Lucas announced Wednesday that the teaser trailer will be appearing before the film The Incredibles on November 5, and will be shown on TV the night before on mysteriously unnamed stations. So set the VCR for "all". I'd suspect, as in the past, they'll have the trailer on Access Hollywood or Entertainment Tonight or both.

And now we have the despotic Jaquandor digging into explanations for old fan issues, in this case, what Luke was doing between Empire and Jedi that completed his training. The answer, naturally, is blowing in the wind. Or read it for yourself because, on this one singular occasion, his analysis is correct. Note that this does in no way constitute an endorsement for greatest single contributor to Star Wars fandom (read opening sentence of his blog). That title belongs to the writer of this extraordinary piece.

There are two major references to the clones in A New Hope, one sequence forming the cannon of anything we knew about the Clone Wars, and the other sequence an oblique reference that has, with the release of Attack of the Clones, become more apparent. The first is at the homestead of Ben Kenobi, when Luke and the former Jedi talk about the past. After Ben implies that Luke's uncle has been 'telling him tales', Luke asks:
    LUKE: You fought in the Clone Wars?
    BEN: Yes, I was once a Jedi Knight the same as your father.
And, until Attack of the Clones was released 25 years later, that has been the only reference to the clones or Clone Wars. That's a lot of time to rely on one small exchange. However, those few words are packed with details we can infer.

Luke is asking in a inquisitive, almost admirative tone of voice, without any hint of accusation. He doesn't think that being involved in the Clone Wars is a bad thing, even with his uncle's influence. We can assume that his friends in the community have a similar point-of-view. Ben's easy acknowledgement of his participation confirms that. However, Ben goes a step further and adds that he was a Jedi knight. Instead of saying, "Wow, what's a Jedi knight?" or "Whose side did they fight on?", he says, sadly, "I wish I'd known him." Of course Luke is much more interested in the father he never met, but his acceptance of what Ben has just told him tells us a lot about the perception of the Jedi in this time. Luke must have heard them term many times before, otherwise he would have asked what the heck a 'Jedi' was.

Secondly, Luke didn't question Ben's allegiance, so the Jedi must have been known to be noble warriors, or at least not fighting against the people. When Ben introduces Luke to a lightsaber and the force, we see that it's likely that people only know the name 'Jedi' and some vague details about them, but nothing of their culture. Despite all this, the details on the clones or the wars themselves remains only something to guess at. Was Ben on the side of the clones (we now know him to be at one point), or fighting against them?

Another clue is left tantalizingly vague moments later, when R2 begins the recorded message:
    LEIA: General Kenobi, years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars. Now he begs you to help him in his struggle against the Empire.
There is not much we can infer from this from an original trilogy standpoint, except that Leia's father knew Obi-Wan 'back in the day', and that likely share similiar ideologies. In terms of the prequel trilogy, this is more interesting. We know that Bail Organa is one of the more powerful senators in the Republic, and that he strongly opposed the use of the clone army. Now that the Clone Wars are in full swing, and the Jedis are to be deployed as soldiers alongside the clones, the question is, was Leia refering to the Jedi who fought with the clones at the beginning of the Clone Wars, or perhaps against the clones at the end under her father's rebellious leadership? For certain, we know that Bail Organa knew how to find Obi-Wan 20 years later, so there must have been some kind of conspiring between the two.

The second reference to clones germanates from a seemingly throwaway line. When Luke, guised in stormtrooper armor, first opens the door to Princess Leia's cell, she remarks with a bit of mirth,"Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?" Luke immediately realizes that the uniform is a bit too large for him and quickly introduces himself to his sister, and the escape is on. The line was ostensibly intended as comedy relief, pointing out that masquerading in the enemy's uniform is hardly seamless. However, the laughter distracts from her real meaning. Leia isn't saying that this stormtrooper got a bad fit in the armor department, but that this clone somehow turned out a bit shorter than his brothers. In other words, she knows they are clonetroopers. The rescue party certainly knows the stormtroopers are clones, and by everyone's lack of reaction, you might infer that this is even common knowledge (much more common than the identity of Darth Vader -- even Leia says, "You're WHO?" when Luke introduces himself) in the galaxy. That, to me, is a chilling realization; they all know and accept that they are running around fighting clones.

Or 'Stormtroopers', rather. As we now know from Episode II, the clonetroopers were created from the seed of Jango Fett by the Kaminoans. The question is, when do they make the transition from clonetroopers to stormtroopers? In other words, when does the 'Empire' get christened? Like most of the fall of the Republic, it will be a gradual but certain fall towards a corrupt system. You aren't going to see Palpatine flip a switch and say, "AHA! It's really an Empire!!" Even 20 years after Episode III, the Emperor is still cleaning up the remnants of the Republic (Tarkin mentions the Emperor just dissolved the Imperial Senate). So when do the stormtroopers get created? The answer is, they already have. Except for some uniform upgrades, they ARE stormtroopers. Note that in the entire original trilogy, no Imperial officer, Vader, or even the Emperor refer to their army as 'stormtroopers'. They are always 'troops'. Only the rebels and those sympathetic to their cause refer to the clones as 'stormtroopers'. In other words, it's a nickname that the people of the galaxy have placed on the Emperor's men, a subtle politcal commentary on the Empire's style, for the word means, "a member of a private Nazi army notorious for aggressiveness, violence, and brutality." They are still all clonetroopers from Kamino, just under the ruthless leadership of the Sith.

It's going to be a treat (at least for me, some of you are no doubt reading this and going, 'Get a life!!!') to watch the original trilogy once Episode III has debuted for more of this kind of thing. I love how Lucas never really spells out what is going on, but leaves it for the audience to figure out and understand. Or for dorks like me.
Political Humor
Humor? In politics? Aside from ironic word fumbling or flip-flopping, the best way to get it is from the internet. Here's an hilarious take on result of Florida 'fixing' their voting process.


Triumph and maybe a little bit of tragedy
A few thoughts on last night's game, which completed either the greatest comeback victory or the worst collapse in baseball history, depending on your perspective.

I grew up in the western part of New York state, about 5 hours directly west of New York City. There were a few Yankee fans in that area, naturally, but the only one I can recall is my grandfather, who watched every game. He used to tell stories of World Series games he watched. Any time I'd come up to visit his house on the hill in the evening, the Yankees game would be on the television, so I was pretty familiar with the team back then. The only Yankee I really liked was Mattingly, who will probably go down in history as the best Yankee never to play on a World Series team.

Although I enjoyed the games, I never really truly was a Yankee fan. I'd root for them on occassion, but my heart wasn't in it. I think it has something to do with the distance between my tiny little town and New York City, which I never even visited until I was in my late 20's. The idea of such a collossal town seems quite alien to my roots, and somehow it just never clicked with me.

On afternoons, I watched the team I grew to love, the Cubs. Though I've STILL never been there, I felt a stronger connection with them than the formidable, storied Yankees. I think now that I've always been attracted to the more tragic figure, the underdog, and the struggle. It's the journey that's the thing, and having a humbler past, suffering a bit, lets you really appreciate winning when it happens, even if it is incredibly rare.

As such, the greatest comeback in history couldn't have happened with two more appropriate teams. One, mired in years of setbacks, the other, bloated with arrogance. Although I had really no true loyalties to either team, I found myself cheering and hoping with every pitch over the last four games (I watched every minute, on into the morning) that the Red Sox could pull off the impossible. Call it kinship by blood, as we long-sufferers stick together.

If I had scripted this series and submitted it for publication, it was have been summarily rejected as cheeseball and unbelievable: Your star pitcher goes down in the first game, likely not to return. You lose the next two games, the third one at home by a drubbing. Games 4 & 5 you beat the premier closer of all time twice and win in extra innings. Game 6 your injured and bleeding star pitcher throws the gutsiest performance of his career to insure a Game 7, and then you handily trounce the Evil Empire before their home fans to win. It's unbelieveable.

On of my Yankee coworkers, still reeling in denial, even went so far as to suggest that the series was fixed. Perhaps back in the day (i.e., the Black Sox scandal) when atheletes were paid a mere pittance this could still be considered even as a remote conspiracy theory, but these guys are all paid millions per year. It's a ridiculous scenario to consider, but apparently some fans are so shocked at the loss that their minds won't let them grasp what has truly happened.

I have absolutely no sympathy for Yankees fans who are crying. They have no idea what loss is, compared to any other team that ever played. They have won 26 championships. Now they have lost in the most embarrassing fashion ever, which is unlikely to be repeated anytime soon, as this is first time it has ever happened in baseball. This is their comeuppance, and it's a bitter drink they are going to have to swallow. That's about as close as I can get to empathy for the Empire as a Cubs fan.

As for the vaunted curse, some say it's still on until the Sox win a series. Technically, I suppose that may be true, and I hope they win it so there will be no question. Either way, some powerful demons have been exorcised over the last week, and if there is a Ruthian curse, it sure as shit took a bad time to take a nap. Part of that curse is the mystique of the Yankees, that they will somehow always find a way to win, and the Sox will find a way to lose. As the last out was recorded and both Yankees and Sox fans stared in disbelief, the aura of the giants of baseball faded to black and white pinstipe.


October Classic
Even if you aren't a fan of baseball, it's tough to ignore the drama going on right now in the American League Championship Series. Just when everyone said it was done, when all hope was lost, when the Yankees were up 3-0 on the Red Sox, an insurmountable lead if there ever was one, suddenly we have a fall classic. After winning back-to-back improbably extra-inning games in Boston, the Sox pulled even with last night's 4-2 win in Yankee Stadium.

The two games in Boston were amazing. Boston, down to it's last three outs in Game 4, and that close to being swept embarrassingly, beat Mariano Rivera to get their first game. Then, the next night in a marathon 14-inning fight, they deliver again.

Last night's game was inspiring and wild. Adding to the atmosphere was something that you hardly ever see in a baseball game once, let alone twice: reversed calls. And both were correct and both hurt the Yankees.

The first, which I am still hearing Yankees fans bitch about, is the home-run that put the Sox up 4-0:
    Mark Bellhorn’s three-run homer for the Red Sox was originally ruled a ground-rule double. But after much discussion, the umpires correctly reversed the call — the ball had ricocheted back onto the field after hitting a fan in the front row of the left-field seats.
The Yankees might have had a case if the fan was leaning over the fence, but she clearly wasn't. The ball hit her right in the chest and bounced back onto the field. This was no Jeffrey Maier incident:
    In 1996, Maier reached over the right field wall and deflected the Yankee batter’s fly ball into the stands. The umpires ruled it a home run and it helped the Yankees tie the Orioles in the eighth inning. The Bombers went on to win the game.
In that game, the Yankees got a break on a controversial (and poor) call. I have no sympathy or understanding for fans who think this incident was even close. Besides that, the Sox won by 2, not 1.

Aha, the red-eyed Yankees fans say, there was yet another controversial reversal, this one requiring the riot police's intervention afterward:
    Then, in the eighth, with the Yankees seemingly on the verge of another comeback, the biggest call of the night went against them. Rodriguez hit a dribbler between the mound and first base. Boston reliever Bronson Arroyo picked up the ball and reached out to tag Rodriguez, who chopped down on Arroyo’s arm and knocked the ball free.

    Jeter raced around to score and Rodriguez wound up on second, apparently cutting the deficit to 4-3. But the umpires got together again and called Rodriguez out for interference.
With the next batter out on strikes, the inning was over, and a run was taken away from the Yankees. Again, though, it's pretty hard to ignore Rodriguez' blatant karate-chop:
    According to Section 6.1 of the MLB Umpire Manual, "While contact may occur between a fielder and runner during a tag attempt, a runner is not allowed to use his hands or arms to commit an obviously malicious or unsportsmanlike act."
This was textbook interference. You'd have to be exceedingly drunk or blinded by your allegiances to miss that. In a nutshell, no amount of crying will change the fact that the umpires reversed two calls and made them correctly, and they weren't the reasons the Yankees lost.

If there had to be one reason, one awe-inspiring performance that put down the Yankees, it wasSchilling's heroic stand:
    With blood seeping through his sock and bravado etched on his face, Curt Schilling shut down the Yankees and — just as he wanted — shut up 55,000-plus New Yorkers.

    Pitching on a dislocated ankle tendon held down by three sutures put in the day before, Schilling gave up one run over seven innings as the Red Sox beat the Yankees 4-2 Tuesday night to save their season for the third day in a row and force a winner-take-all Game 7 for the AL pennant and a trip to the World Series.
Schilling is a horse. After getting shelled in Game 1 on a bad ankle, to come back into Yankee stadium and pitch 6 scoreless, 3-hit innings on a bleeding ankle is the stuff of legends. For the Sox fans and players, how could you not be inspired?

So, we have the improbable Game 7 tonight, which no baseball team has ever lost once up 3-0. In fact, no team has even forced a game seven after being down 3-0. Until now. Until these miracle Red Sox. Will the Red Sox complete the greatest comeback in baseball history against the most storied team ever? Or will Babe Ruth somehow bail out his limping, beat-down team? Suffice it to say, I'll be watching, and, like the two games before, I'll watch until it's all over.


Sith Teaser and a not-so-fearsome Dark Lord
Just taking a quick break in the work day to note that some lucky bastard has gotten a sneak peak at the Revenge of the Sith teaser trailer, due out next month. There are briefly detailed descriptions here and here. Sounds pretty cool, but then what else would you expect me to say?

In other news, apparently someone has tried to impersonate Vader for personal gain:
    The deliveryman brought a pizza to a Kissimmee address Sunday night, said Dearmas, only to find no one home. He got back into his car to drive away, when Darth Vader, mask, black outfit and all, suddenly materialized.

    In a presumably commanding voice, the evil Sith Lord (search) ordered the deliveryman to give up all his cash. The pizza man hit the gas and sped off, but not before getting a good zap from what may have been a laser blaster, a light saber or perhaps just a stun gun.


Special Special Editon
Thanks to Brian for pointing out this hilarious take on the history of Lucas' changes to the cantina scene and one possible future.


I say "JoePa" you say "Terno-ver"
While it certainly can be said that turnovers have been the Penn State's achillies heel this season, we took a bigger blow this past weekend in our loss to Wisconsin, 16-3 with key injuries.

We lost both our starting quarterback, Zack Mills, and his backup and our best flanker, Michael Robinson, within the span of the 1st quarter. Although this left our offense impaired for the rest of the game, we still managed to stay close. Even closer if it wasn't for those pesky turnovers. Our defense plays tough, but it's clear that if we are going to win any more games this season, we're going to need these guys back. The status of our guys from Paterno's mouth:
    Michael Robinson…when you get knocked out they have to proceed you to where it is going to take at least a week or two. He will not play this week. I talked to Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli and he said it may be three or four weeks before he will be cleared. Zack Mills was out yesterday and we told him to take it easy, but he is optimistic that he might be able to go this week. It is not his throwing arm. It is the other arm. He had a partial separation. I think they think they can strap it up and the whole bit, but if there is any danger, we won’t use him. Our medical people as I think most of you know from past experiences, are very conservative and they are going to think about the kids’ future before we do anything foolish. There is a chance that Zack might be ready this week.
Not too promising, especially playing in Minnesota. Those of you who say the hit on Robinson may have thought it flagrant. When asked about it, Paterno gave his standard 'yes' answer:
    Don’t get me into that, OK? I think all of you saw the game on television and if not probably had a chance to look it over. I think you can make your own decision on that.
Probably the biggest question, or accusation I've heard over the last few weeks is about Paterno himself. Mostly random fans (although a few PSU fans have spoken about it) are focused on Joe's age and whether he is competent to coach anymore. Now, most of these people haven't watched all the games, so they are just reading the party line, but one must consider age as a factor. I haven't seen anything in the 3 games that lead me to believe Joe isn't as competent as he was 10 years ago, when we went undefeated (and should have won the national championship but it was given to Nebraska because Osborne was retiring). I happen to agree with Joe's assessment of where they are at:
    Too many things are happening to us. I really thought we were ready for both Boston College and Wisconsin. Boston College was up there and we were all fired up. This game we go up there and we get banged up people in the first quarter, which changed everything we were going to do offensively. You have to change it. You have to be careful. Sometimes things just don’t go your way. If you start changing just for the sake of changing, you end up going backwards. We just have to hang in there and get better. It is as simple as that.
Change for change's sake isn't the way to go. Our team is making mental mistakes, and getting some really bad breaks. I honestly felt our team played better in the loss than when we beat Central Florida two weeks ago. We're getting better slowly, but the breaks are killing us.

If you want to see some bad coaching, all you needed to do was watch the timeout management from the Monday Night Football game. Poor timeout management left the Redskins with none left when they desperately could have used one in the waning moments of the game (an extra timeout would have given them a shot at a game-tying 37-yard field goal). However, the game's most baffling call came with 12 seconds left at the half, on a Redskins 3rd-and-goal from the 1. By using their last timeout with so little time, Joe Gibbs virtually told Parcells (and everyone watching) that he was going to throw the ball on 3rd down. Sure enough, when Mark Brunell rolled out from the play-fake, he found himself staring at two charging Dallas linebackers and 5 defensive backs covering their two receivers. They read the play! Parcells is a genius!!

At the very least, I shouldn't be hearing any shit from Redskins fans about Paterno anymore.


You, like your VCR tapes before you, are now... MINE
I have come out from under the blanket of my overworked, underpaid self to broadcast some shocking news: yes, I did purchase the Star Wars DVD trilogy. I have only watched two extra features so far (and none of the films yet): the feature-length documentary and the Episode III preview (naturally).

If the digitally enhanced films live up to the documentary, this is going to be one great box set. There were all kinds of tidbits and insights in the making of the film, and every living castmember spoke about their roles and the experience. There are too many details to recount, so I'll just name a few that struck me as exceptional. I knew that Star Wars was made on a tight budget, and all the technology had to be invented for the film, but I never realized just how close the film came no not being completed. Lucas took over so much of the filmmaking process himself that he suffered from hypertension and stress, and was warned that he would have a heart attack if he continued apace. The man, through sheer force of will and genius, made this film happen.

The other was the story of the directoral choice for Return. At the time of A New Hope's release, the showing of credits at the end of the film was unheard of, and finable by various film industry unions. For that movie, they let it go just that once. However, as you know, Empire followed in the same mold, which set off a firestorm of pedantic complaining by the unions. They (the Directors Guild, Screenwriters Guild, etc.) to start fining Lucas and Kershner (the director, also a former professor under which Lucas studied) for the egregious transgression. Lucas felt he was being persecuted (can anyone blame him?) and quit him membership in the above two clubs. Unfortunately, this decision made it impossible for him to get his first choice for director of Return, his pal, Steven Spielberg. Had it not been for industry nitpickery, who knows what kind of movie Return would have been. Instead, Lucas chose Marquand to direct, whose inexperience with special effects shooting led Lucas to come down and supervise every single shot for half the film. We'll never know, but in my humble opinion (certain to be countered by Jaquandor), a great opportunity was missed to make this film better.

Lastly, I should note that it is good to have friends who run theaters. One such person has been showing late night (i.e., 10:30pm) presentations of old films in the Old Town theater. About four weeks ago, this person came up to me and asked what I think would draw a crowd to see at one of these late night showings. I nearly spit out my drink. So, at my suggestion, this Thursday they are going to show Empire, fresh off the DVD and in dolby digital on the big screen. Can you say titillated?


Parry, thrust
While this may be of no interest to those who don't know both of us, I have decided to comment on every single of the 100 things about Jaquanorhe posted, just to be spiteful. And only spiteful. Okay, I just felt like it. Below are his declarations, and in italics are my comments:

1. I enjoy very sharp cheddar cheese. I have shipped to my location in DC "New York Sharp Cheddar Cheese Spread", which I grew up on in NY. I consider it to be the greatest cheese in the world, and NO ONE who has ever tasted it down here would disagree.
2. My devotion to the Buffalo Bills knows no bounds. Mine does. I spent a lot of time in Philly, and my father is from there. Thus, I have an allegiance to the Eagles which is comparable. However, should these two teams play in the Superbowl, I would have to root for the Bills. But only barely.
3. Neither does my hatred of the New England Patriots. I share no such hatred. I only hate Nebraska and Miami (college teams, but my vitriol can be palpably noticed when the former is mentioned in ANY scenario).
4. To this day I remember screaming "NOOOO!" when Scott Norwood's kick went wide-right. I remember only that my brother put his fist through a wall after that.
5. Jim Kelly is my favorite Buffalo Bill. Mine is Joe Ferguson, who still holds the record for least interceptions in a season (1).
6. Closely followed by Thurman Thomas. Closely followed by Jim Kelly.
7. I am a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, although this passion is mostly dormant since the franchise is on its fourth rebuilding phase since their last winning season, in 1992. I've always been a Pirates fan, because (a) they were the closest baseball francise to Allegany, NY, (2) because a lot of friends and cousins grew up there, and (3) because I saw my first major league game at 3 Rivers.
8. It amazes me that in the annals of dumb sports deals, the Pirates' signing of Andy Van Slyke to a multi-year deal that left them unable to keep Barry Bonds around is never mentioned. :In retrospect, this does seem dumb.
9. I detest the Atlanta Braves.Ditto
10. The best moment of each baseball season is when someone knocks the Braves out of the playoffs.Clouded by hatred. I think it is the latter days of the pennant race.
11. If there is a modern-day Faust, his name is "Francisco Cabrera". No comment.
12. I enjoy walking with my personal CD player.I just got an iPod, and it is fabulous. 20 years ago I never dreamed that I could hold my entire (>300 CDs) collection in my hand.
13. I genuinely believe that Buffalo would be the finest place in the United States if the city and region would get its collective head out of its ass. Haven't spent enough time to know. I love the DC Metro area. Always have, and it started when I first visitied when I was 7. I remember being awed by the 4-lane beltway (coming from a town that has a 2-lane highway in some remote stretches, and is never crowded). Plus, it is very lush.
14. I adore chicken wings. Ditto
15. My favorite mixed drink is the sloe gin fizz. Jack and Coke, baby.
16. I haven't had a sloe gin fizz in more than ten years.It's been 1 hour for me.
17. My favorite wine is Cockburn's Ruby Port.N/A
18. I used to be able to drink a six pack of beer in a night.I can, but I get sleepy. Contrarily, I can drink enough J&C to cripple your average human in a night and still function nominally
19. Now a six pack will last up to a month in my fridge. I don't want to even go into how much Jack I put away a month.
20. I flirted a bit with Jack Daniel's in college and briefly after. (An unfortunate night before a wedding – no, not my own – ended the Jack Daniel's experiment.) I used to drink beer until I discovered the nice buzz that J&C delivered when I was 22. After that, it's tough to go back.
21. I drink Diet Pepsi constantly. I drink water constantly, due to (1)I had kidney stones when I was 25, (2)I work out a lot and it's healthy to do, (3) I sweat more than the average person, and (4) the best prevention/cure for a hangover is hydration.
22. I am crazy about baked pasta dishes.My current fetish is Baja Fresh's 'Burrito Ultimo with sour cream. Kicks Chipotle's ass.
23. I also have entirely too healthy a love for fried food. I do not.
24. My sweet tooth knows little bounds. Mine does not. Never been that big a fan of sweets.
25. I don't like broccoli. Fool. I used to not like it, but my taste buds have evolved. To a higher state of supremacy, one might say.
26. My favorite ethnic cuisine is Chinese. Italian.
27. The ethnic cuisines I feel guiltiest about not trying are Indian and Thai. Guilt? I want my pain, I need my pain!!! Khan!!!! Khan!!!!
28. I was born in Pittsburgh. I was born in Olean General Hospital in NY on July 20, 1971 at 11:22 P.M.
29. By the time my family settled in Western New York, I had lived in eight houses in four states (Pennsylvania, Oregon, Wisconsin and West Virginia). See number 28.
30. My first day of school in sixth grade was only the second time I started a school year at the same school as the year before. LIE (see below).
31. I have known Matt Jones longer than anyone else in my life, except for my immediate family members. True, as well as for me, although I have not SEEN Mr. Sedinger since 1989. He continues to be the most intriguing writer I've known, and I take his opinion on things I've written (when I do write, I send it to him for appraisal and feedback first and primarily) since 4TH GRADE.
32. I met Matt Jones in 1981, in Mr. DiSorbo's class. It was fourth grade, dammit, and it was a play called "How the Elves Saved Christmas". Thankfully, all evidence was destroyed, and key witnesses decided to wait for the civil trail to give their testimony.
33. Living in New York, I decided to attend college in Iowa. By fate (read: my father was promoted and moved to Philly prior to my senior year of high school), I attended Penn State. I loved it.
34. I had to constantly explain to people here that Iowa's where corn comes from, not potatoes. Really?
35. So my wife's family lives in Idaho, of course, having moved there from Iowa during her freshman year. I have no wife, although my girlfriend lives in North Carolina.
36. My wife is a year older than I. My girlfriend is 10 years younger than I.
37. My wife proposed to me, not vice-versa. (In my defense, I already had her ring on order and was going to do the honors when the thing came in. Curse you, jewelry department at the Walden Galleria JCPenney!)No comment!!!!!
38. The engagement ring is an emerald. To this day, I have not given my wife a diamond. I have not given anyone a diamond. I write letters (mostly hand-written) montly and send flowers. Go ahead and vomit if you must. [Kelly, this is where all my writing time has been going!]
39. I consider this a colossal failing on my part. For shame! Sentiment and sincere love trumps any DeBeers campain.
40. I have, though, personally provided her with a starting collection of five porcelain dolls, whose combined price would have equaled that of a small diamond. See above.
41. Our wedding bands are Claddagh rings that we had altered thusly: my ring bears my wife's birthstone, and her ring bears mine. No comment.
42. I was unaware until just a couple of months ago that I was wearing my Claddagh ring incorrectly, and thus signaling my availability to the women of the world. Cad!
43. Somehow, the women of the world have proven impervious to the effects of an incorrectly-aligned Claddagh ring upon my finger. Fate!
44. My sister is an English professor in Colorado. Mine is not.
45. My father is a Mathematics professor in New York. Mine is a retired mechanical engineer, aged 82, who can still kick my ass in tennis and is the smartest man I've ever met.
46. My mother is a retired librarian.My mother used to work for the Bank of New York. And she raised me.
47. So is my aunt, and so was my grandmother. Too many aunts to list here, and my two grandmothers were homemakers.
48. My favorite movie is Star Wars. Casablanca.
49. I hated Star Wars the first time I saw it. Seeing Star Wars in the theater with my father is the first solid memory I have. And I loved it.
50. In my defense, I was five and it was really the first non-Disney type thing I'd ever seen, and I didn't know what to make of it. I credit my sister with turning me around.51. I didn't see Casablanca until after my freshman year of college. Young fool. Now only at the end so you understand.
52. The first time I saw Casablanca, I didn't quite understand the fuss. See above.
53. The second time I saw Casablanca, I was totally and completely engrossed. See above.
54. I once went nine weeks where every Sunday evening I watched Casablanca. No regiment involved. I didn't have to make up for my younger foolishness.
55. At various times in my life, I have been able to claim the following as "my favorite TV show": Happy Days, Diff'rent Strokes, Star Trek, Dallas, The X-Files, The West Wing, Friends, and Once and Again. Magnum, P.I., Star Trek:TNG, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
56. I was so little attuned to television during my college years that Twin Peaks had been canceled by the time I heard of it. Sad. We used to sit around on Thursday nights and watch it my freshman year at State.
57. I grew my hair long partially as a rebellion against my mother, who resolutely insists that all men should have short hair and made sure that mine was so for my entire youth. I got sick of it., I had long hair (not as long as Jaquandor -- I can't stand long hair in back) in college, but as I grew older (i.e., by the time I was 25!) I trimmed it because in the professional world it looks bad. Plus, later on my hair grew a littel thin. Now, if my hair gets to 3/4 inch, it's long.
58. I had a beard in college, mostly out of laziness to avoid shaving. I made little effort to keep it trimmed, so I looked like hell. For two weeks, I did the same. Beard hair on the pillow is just irritating.
59. I decided to try the beard again when I joined The Store. N/A
60. It bugs me that in the wake of the Lord of the Rings movies, the long-haired-and-bearded look has not come back into fashion. Where???
61. But then, my own fashion sense has always trended toward "questionable". See above.
62. For instance, I have bought no new clothes except for the occasional t-shirt and black pants for work at The Store in nearly five years. See above.
63. I wear shorts all winter, if I can. I used to do this, and I made it a point to wear shorts at PSU every day, even in winter of 1989. Walking was something very chilly, but leg hair cannot be underestimated for its warmth.
64. I prefer overalls to blue jeans. (More comfortable.) Never worn them. Look good on chicks, though.
65. I have never owned a pair of Levi's. Ditto.
66. The two pairs of jeans I currently own are Old Navy and St. John's Bay, respectively. GAP. Five pairs.
67. I think that neckties are the most colossally stupid article of clothing ever devised. This coming from a guy who loves overalls should be expected. I own 35 ties, and I wear them frequently, even when out at bars for no reason than to be spiffy. So there.
68. (But I know that my opinion on that score would differ greatly were I a woman, and thus required to contend with the high heel, the underwire, and the gamut of goofy crap they have to put up with.) No comment. At all.
69. I start to sweat when it's seventy-three degrees out. Ditto!
70. The idea of living anyplace where the average number of days above ninety degrees in a year exceeds the number of fingers on my hands makes me nauseous. Ditto! I'm not sure if it is genetics or that you are used to your climate. I will say that when we have hot spells in DC (and they have infrequent this year), the first day always seems much harsher than the last.
71. Frank admission time: I actually liked the Pepsi commercial Britney did, when she appeared in several different "decades". MOVE OVER BRITNEY!!!
72. I love David Letterman, and I love him most when he's at his most sarcastic and rude. Ditto.
73. The earliest music I remember ever hearing is John Denver's "Country Roads" and Neil Diamond's "Song Sung Blue". For me, still the opening track from Star Wars.
74. I have a soft spot for "I Write the Songs" by Barry Manilow. If we are talking about cheesy songs, it has to be "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" from Butch Cassidy.
75. I am horribly uneducated about rock music of the 1990s, especially "alternative rock". I am an expert.
76. My favorite 1990s song is "Stay" by Lisa Loeb. PFFT! Too many to list, and too many to think about. The early 90's was the heyday of alt-rock, and today's 'alt-rock' sucks. Don't try to dispute this. Anything empassioned from Weezer or Radiohead in the 90's will do.
77. So many love songs, so little time. Ditto.
78. I was a trumpet player for a long time, but I allowed that aspect of my life to go by the wayside when writing became more of a focus and outlets for trumpet playing became fewer. Clarinet, then piano, then guitar, then singer. As I got further indepent from my parents, the more I did what I wanted. To this day, hearing a singer's voice crack over a passionate lyric will hook me.
79. I am probably the only trumpet-knowledgeable person on Earth who does not care for Wynton Marsalis's trumpet playing. (There's just something about his tone that I don't like.) Too ignorant to comment.
80. I'm also not a fan of Rolf Smedvig. Too ignorant to comment.
81. My favorite trumpet soloists are Maurice Andre and Hakan Hardenburger. Too ignorant to comment.
82. My trumpet playing hero, though – the guy I tried to emulate in my approach – was Adolph "Bud" Herseth, who held the Principal Trumpet chair in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (thus being the "concertmaster" of the world's greatest orchestral brass section) for fifty years. Too ignorant to comment.
83. My alma mater (Wartburg College) has a long-standing rivalry with Adolph Herseth's alma mater (Luther College). PSU's rival, no matter what conference they are in, will always be, to me, Miami (FL).
84. The first James Bond movie I saw was Moonraker. Dr. No. It was on TV, and I liked it, although I didn't appreciate it as I do now.
85. My worst habits are either my eating (which has gotten a lot better over the last few years, although there's a long way to go) or my tendency to swear like a sailor (I've made substantial inroads on this as well). I am shocked! I've don't recall Jaquandor swearing. My worst habits are binge drinking and cigarettes. Regarding drinking, however, I think of it as an activity, e.g., I don't drink when I eat, and I don't have a few when I come home from work. I'm either doing it or I'm not. And sex, I must admit.
86. I've never been in a car accident, as of this writing. 1. Very minor.
87. I believe that people who don't tip the pizza delivery person are rude snots who deserve to have their pizza loogie'd upon. Who doesn't?
88. The first person who figured out that pork tastes good may have been the greatest person in history. And thus signaled the downfall of the pig as a trusted pet?
89. My first vote in a Presidential election was cast by absentee ballot for Bill Clinton in 1992. Ha. Never voted. I didn't care enough in the early 90's (when I was democratic leaning!), and since I moved to the District (95), it hasn't mattered, since this place is 88% democrat traditionally. Bad attitude, for sure, but here my vote won't make a bit of difference.
90. I strongly prefer cats to dogs. Dogs are cooler, but I love animals.
91. Somehow, I've never developed a habit of reading The Onion. Fool!
92. The Simpsons was in its fifth season when I started watching it. Third season. That's when it started to get good.
93. My college graduation present from my parents was a Persian kitten that I named Jasmine. A 1992 Dodge Shadow. There's a funny story behind it, but not for here.
94. Jasmine died in summer of 2002. I assume this is the cat, as opposed to the character on "Angel".
95. I have a fairly weak sense of smell. Of the five senses, the one I would lose the first is this one. I love smell, and it is tied to memory, but it's no big deal if I don't have to be repulsed by a passing dumptruck or vomit in the bathroom or bad breath.
96. I adore cold weather. Ditto. I love summer and the beach, but too hot repulses me. Winter is such a glorious time.
97. October is my favorite month. Don't have one, but hard to argue with that.
98. Purple is my favorite color. Green.
99. I love red-headed women. Does anyone not?
100. My wife does not have red hair. I love blondes and redheads, but every significant woman I've ever dated has been brunette. Make your own theories.
101. I love science museums; the more "push the button and watch something happen" displays, the better. Dork. I love them too, but it will be forever tempered by the memory of my father taking my to the Franklin Instituate in Philly, when he proceeded to quiz my on why the physics shows would really be happening. This is when I had just completed my engineering degree. Holy pressure.
102. The best science museum I have been in on a substantial visit is the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto.Air and Space Museum, DC. Been to Smithsonian, too, but seeing the Star Wars exhibit was wonderful.
103. I've been to Chicago's Science Museum, which has an unbelievable reputation, but only twice. The first time, I was four; the second time was on a college band tour, and we only got something like three hours there. N/A.
104. Of the American states to which I have never visited, the one I most want to visit is Alaska. Hawaii, followed by Montana.
105. Of the American states to which I have never visited, the one I least want to visit is Connecticut. (I'm sure there's wonderful stuff in Connecticut. I just know nothing about it whatsoever.) Been to Connecticut on I-95. My friend Gary and I joked on the trip the slogan of CT should be "CT, you'll be here longer than you think!" Otherwise, I'd say Utah. It's wedged in between Wyoming and Nevada. You've seen pictures.
106. The places I most want to see abroad are Britain, Scandinavia, Japan, and Olympus Mons on Mars. Everest, somewhere in the middle of the Pacific, Antartica, Jupiter (can you tell I like remote places? I love that feeling of nothingness and vastness. When I go to the beach I love to stare out at the ocean -- especially at night -- and think about how little we are compared to the power and enormity of the universe).
107. I can't stand those artificial social events that companies insist on inflicting upon their employees these days, and I totally clam up at such functions. And how! I hate 'team building exercises'.
108. I tend to come off as something of a cold fish upon first meeting. Depends on my mood. In general I'll be very cold and guarded, but sometimes I've overly silly and outgoing (mostly read as cock or obnoxious). If you can't stand me after two meetings, it's you, not me.
109. My sense of humor can be very biting at times. I am dry and spastic (!), to the point where there are people who will 'get me' and completely understand my humor, and those who just think I'm an ass. Both have a case.
110. I have the sneaking suspicion that my long-time readers already know all of this stuff, and that my newer readers are not about to read all this stuff. I can't belive I'm up till 4 doing this.
111. Exeunt. Ditto


It's resume time again...
And you know that means it's time for unintentionally hilarious resume submissions. Our IT staff is very short-handed, due to simultaneous office expansion and employee truncation, so everyone here is sorting through resumes for the 5 or 6 jobs we have available. As we have multiple projects going on (not to mention 2005 budgets, which I'm handling), the sorting process, as I wrote about last year, has been accelerated.

I have on my wall what I consider to be the worst cover letter ever, and there have been no contenders to the throne (not even one where an applicant addressed our male CEO as "Ms."). However, a recent desktop technician's resume was brought to my attention for serious review. My colleagues were thinking of adding him to the phone-interview pool, but I vetoed it, based on one single missing letter. I don't mean a missing cover letter or mailed envelope. I mean a missing letter in one sentence on an otherwise spotless resume. Here is the sentence; see if you can find the missing letter:
    "Eager to learn, self-starter, diligent and through."
You know, I might have let this one slide, but this guy chose the exact wrong sentence for a misspelling. I'm sure he is very thorough in everything he does. Except, of course, on work which may reflect his competency or be important. If he can't find the time to be thorough about a piece of paper that might get him hired, I can't see how he's going to be any better here.

And, while I laugh at this poor fool's expense, I'm tempted to email him to let him know of his error. I feel bad for his plight. But, like him, I'm not going to follow up because I'm through.


I'm... too sexy for my name
Either scientists have a lot of time on their hands, or some reporters are just killing for a story. Turns out that your name's sound has a sexy quality:
    Men with “front vowels” in their names — sounds formed at the front of the mouth like the “a” in Matt — were considered sexier than men with “back vowel” sounds like the “au” in Paul, she concluded.
I'm a little confused, since my first name conflicts with my middle. I will vouch for the non-sexy quality of Paul, mostly because anytime I hear the name, it's usually together with the first in the form of outrage (i.e., my mother getting angry: "Matthew Paul Jones!!!!").

Alas, for Jaquandor, the news is not as good:
    But men who might be thinking of taking more feminine names to become sexier should be careful not to go too far: Men with women’s names were rated least sexy of all.


Kerry is a New England Patriot!
This morning it was pointed out to me that John Kerry looks a lot like Andrew Jackson. See for yourself here. The similarity is so striking that perhaps he is the reincarnation of the former president, and he has come back from the dead to reclaim his throne. Or something.

Other comparisons have been made, notably his resemblance to the New England Patriot logo. Naturally, this would cause some people to have schisms. There is no other purpose here.


Movie Speeches
In keeping with today's theme of "all play and no work makes Matt a literate boy", Jaquandor found a site which is dedicated to speeches. Notably, for me, it even has a section for speeches made in movies, and their sound clips.

It's a pretty good list. I supposed I shouldn't be shocked that one movie isn't mentioned at all for its famous rules explanation clip. I am, of course, referring to Fight Club (the clip is here, FYI).

However, I was glad to see my favorite two speeches appear, both from the same movie. They are done back-to-back in the underrated classic, Other People's Money. Two charismatic leaders, played by the late Gregory Peck and Danny Devito, spar off in a stockholder's meeting debate, presenting both sides of a potential company buyout with wit, wisdom, and poignancy. If nothing else, it's an education into what stocks are all about. Listen or read Peck's first, and then the finale. Obey.
Two Cents for Six Titles
Not to be confused with Two Mules for Sister Sara -- great flick, that. No, this is about the recent title release of the sixth and last Star Wars film in the saga, Revenge of the Sith. Exciting times, these -- nowhere else will you get as much hype and anticipation over the title of a film that won't be out for 294 days (estimated). Nor has there been as much angst about title choices. I've been alive and conscious for every title announcement, and, the classic trilogy included, this is the first time that a title has been, more-or-less, universally praised.

I have this CNN video-clip of Ewan McGregor's (with Nicole Kidman) reaction to the naming of Episode II, and it is priceless. I don't have a link to it anymore, but here's a transcription:

    EWAN and NICOLE are at a Moulin Rouge promo. A reporter is in mid-interview.

    Ewan, did you hear the title for the new Star Wars movie?

    Yes, yes I did!

    NICOLE (to Ewan)
    What is it?

    It's called 'Attack of the Clones'.

    NICOLE takes a beat to absorb this. Then:

    NICOLE (disbelief)

    EWAN (nearly bursting into laughter)
    It is!

    They look at each other and laugh.

Not too good when you have the actors in the film reacting that way. The reaction was different for The Phantom Menace; not so much ridicule as confusion. It didn't sound like a Star Wars title. Another criticism was it was too confusing and vague of a title -- what did it mean? Ironically, this was in tune with what happens in the movie.

Even the vaunted Empire Strikes Back was ridiculed for its Saturday-afternoon-matinee cheeseball title. It hardly even seems like the title could be questioned these days. [As for the original, hardly anyone (who wasn't a fan) even knew the real title of the film, so that one doesn't apply here.] Return of the Jedi was originally titled Revenge of the Jedi (see below), but realizing that emotion wouldn't be part of being a Jedi (rightly so), Lucas changed it a few months before the premiere. Fans liked the more menacing 'Revenge' title because it sounded cooler, and there was a lot of negative fan response. Now, two decades later, they finally get their wish.

The Force.Net noticed that ESPN this week, on the Daily Quickie, ranked the top 5 Star Wars names as thus:
    Empire Strikes Back: How gutsy to use for a sequel
    Revenge of the Sith: How nasty does THAT sound?
    Attack of the Clones: Meant what it said
    Return of the Jedi: Originally “Revenge”
    A New Hope: How innocent it was!
In keeping with this ranking, and looking for something to do on this slow work day, here's the REAL rankings:
  1. Return of the Jedi: Even though the film isn't my favorite, I think it's a great title. Snappy, accurate, and bonus points for having the word 'Jedi' in it.
  2. Revenge of the Sith: I agree with the fan reactions; sounds bad ass. Much better than 'Birth of the Empire' would have been. Plus, 'Sith' factor.
  3. The Empire Strikes Back: Classic and menacing. Like 'Sith', you know it's going to be a dark film.
  4. The Phantom Menace: I admit it. I like the title. But not good enough to beat any of the big three. It's only just a bit better than...
  5. Attack of the Clones: Because Ewan McGregor has ruined it for me. Love the movie, but I can't say the title without sometimes slipping into his Scottish accent. And giggling.
  6. A New Hope: Limp.
And that's the way it is.

AND ANOTHER THING: Just in time to capitalize on the frenzy of the title release, the official site is offering a Revenge of the Sith t-shirt, styled in the same manner as the rare Revenge of the Jedi t-shirts that were distributed in 1982 before the title was changed. Please don't order me one; it's already on the way ;). DORK ALERT!!
Audience Reaction
One of the things that writers need is feedback. It is invaluable to know that someone has read and liked (or disliked -- aghast) what you have put out there, but even more so when those people give you some kind of usable responses. Not only is it part of the learning process, but, moreso, it's kinda cool. Blogging or writing scripts or books (I know, I know -- I slack) are ostensibly to post opinions, witticisms, and stories for reader consumption. But without getting something back, I might as well put them in a diary and lock them away. And then you'd be sorry.

Yesterday's little post about Obama (truthfully, I'd never even heard the name until Jaquandor's post), elicited a couple of interesting comments from my friends. And I know where they both live. Needless to say, they both got me thinking. They both made party-line criticisms (which is not to discount them) about my rather silly political post. I really had no intention of making a political statement, but rather an observation that related to a film (which, of course, is the only way I interact successfully with society).

Firstly, the "roommate" (whose identity is as well kept a secret as our president's middle initial) said:
    I get your point and I think it's legitimate... provided the president doesn't rely on weak/exaggerated intelligence to justify dragging the country into a war he "believes is right". To put it plainly - does the end justify the means?
Firstly, the term 'dragging' should be applied to those who share that point-of-view, and not necessarily this country in which millions others of us don't believe we were 'dragged'. The intelligence, which was shared with all the member of congress and the allies, was enough for our legislature to vote yes to invading Iraq way back in 2002. Even so, mere intelligence isn't enough to prompt a full-scale invasion of another country. There has to be higher objectives and/or perceived threats to commit a nation to this level of interaction. (If you want to read a good summary overall, go here.) I think the disagreement you present is based on your perception of our administration's agenda.

I am guessing that you (and many others) perceive the Bush administration as doing this for either a war-mongering or daddy-revenge reason, and I (and others, again) perceive it in strategic terms. I take this as a difference in belief and perception, such as how one could see Hillary Clinton as a 'spurious bitch' and others see her as a great woman ;). As with all things, our views are greatly influenced by our preconceived notions or biases. I don't like Hillary. You don't like Bush. Fair enough on both counts. These biases will hinder our abilities to appreciate a more logical view, just as those who can't see all the intricacies and beauty in Attack of the Clones because they don't want to or they don't get it (must have at least one movie reference!). Of course, I may be judged insane by those who can't stand the prequels, but therein is another example of the prejudicial difference. Blathering aside, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. But more to the point: You can't encapsulate a complex issue with a tidy sound-bite, such as 'ends justify the means', without missing a helluva lot in the expurgation.

As for Jaquandor's quote, well, you just suck. Kidding. He said:
    Not wishing to get into a whole debate on the war in Iraq, I think you're completely missing Obama's point. The film is talking about fighting the political fights, whereas Obama was referring to a very common criticism of the Iraq effort (and one with which I agree): that the military commitment was not sufficient to the task at hand.
Kelly here does indeed hit on a key point. I was making a very loose comparison from a quote that was out of context, and I knew it. It just reminded me of the movie-line, and I thought it interesting to compare two liberal speeches that had different points about similar things. As to the amount of men or commitment, I'm not too familiar with that critique. Do we need more troops? More artillery? Last I checked, we had been fighting terrorist insurgents, not armies, for the last year, and I don't think that an extra 10,000 men would matter in that scenario. If what you are talking about is a longer commitment to stay and ensure the democracy of Iraq, then I agree. To stop now or fall short would be disasterous. No war is ever perfect, and changes are always made in process. The effort can be criticized with 20/20 hindsight wisdom (fairly or unfairly), and the history books yet to be written will have their final say. This criticism doesn't seem like much of a political one as a military one, so I don't see how it's relevant (unless, of course, Obama is a logistics and tactical expert).

In any event, food for my brain, and hopefully for yours.


Sorkin, can I get an edit?
When I woke up this morning and checked the blog of ultimate evil, I found a very brief and tantalizing entry, "Barack Obama kicks ass." Having missed the democratic convention coverage last night, and being slightly more right-leaning than anyone else reading he-who-shall-not-be-insulted's blog, I was forced to google to find out just what was meant by this cryptic message.

Turns out this guy is a young tyro for the demmies and up for Senator this year. And apparently he gave quite a stirring speech last night. I just read the article, which only has a few blurbs from it, but one passage in particular struck me as very odd:
    "When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they’re going," Obama said, "and to never — ever — go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace and earn the respect of the world."
I couldn't put my finger on why this passage bothered me for a while. Obviously, I don't agree on the democrat party line about Iraq, but there was something else. It took me a while before it hit me. The line "...never — ever — go to war without enough troops to win the war..." reminded me of an point that a character makes to the president in the film, The American President:

    Other than not knowing the difference
    between Harvard and Stanford, has he
    said something that isn't true? Am
    I not a Commander-in-Chief who's
    never served in the military? Am I
    not opposed to a Constitutional
    amendment banning flag burning? Am
    I not an unmarried father who was
    sharing a bed with a liberal lobbyist
    down the hall from my twelve-year-old

    And you think you're wrong?

    I don't think you win elections by
    telling 59 percent of the people that
    they are.

    We fight the fights we can win.


    You fight the fights that need
    [emphasis mine]

    Is the view pretty good from the
    cheap seats, A.J.?

    I beg your pardon.

    It occurs to me that in 25 years I've
    never seen your name on a ballot.
    Why have you always been standing a
    pace behind me?

    Because if I hadn't been, you'd be
    the most popular history professor
    at the University of Wisconsin.

    Fuck you.
The American President, although unabashedly liberal, is a great film, not unlikely Aaron Sorkin's other writing effort, The West Wing. Unfortunately for Obama, I don't think he's seen the flick. His line about the troops contrasts with the moral of the film, which is the president doing what he believes is right rather than what the polls show or what is safe to win. Of course, this is real life and that is a movie, but I don't think it's very rousing to declare, "Let's make sure that we only fight if we are guaranteed victory!" Not exactly an exciting tag line for your campaign.


Bourne for Steady-Cam
After seeing The Bourne Supremacy in the theater this weekend, and having given it much thought, I feel that it is a worthy sequel to the original. The film goes further into the troubled psyche of 'bourne'-again assassin Jason Bourne, who struggles to find out who he is while taming his violent nature. Far from shirking his past, his skills are seemingly innate and deadly, and the film succeeds in creating an enthralling picture of a man without a past whose only talent appears to be in creating mayhem. So, I give this film a big thumbs-up, but I would recommend that you wait until video to see it.

My sole reason for this is the direction of Paul Greengrass, whose style is best compared to The Blair Witch Project. Greengrass has such an affinity for hand-held cameras that it is distracting to the point of irritation, and in several of the action sequences I had to actually look away from the screen for fear of mild nausea.

It's difficult to see what is going on in or even manage to focus on any object for longer than a period of a moment. There are photos in last week's Entertainment Weekly which show a couple of stills from a hand-to-hand combat, and they were by far clearer than anything I saw on the screen. But worse, from the article, was this quote, explaining that it was no error:
    The car chase through the streets of Moscow, filmed with Greengrass' favored handheld cameras. "If Bourne ran, I wanted us to be running," Greengrass explains. When told that his technique worked so well that one audience member promptly puked during the scene, he exclaims, "Excellent!"
It turns out that the director is purposefully trying to disorient the audience instead of letting them just watch. While this tactic would surely appeal to art-film creators, it does nothing more than to call attention to his direction and pull away from the film. I believe that the mark of a great director, like a great umpire in a big game, is that you are virtually unaware of their hand in controlling the action.

Of course, I sat relatively close (say, 30 feet) from the screen, so I'm sure that added to the discombobulating effect, which is why I am recommending it on DVD. However, should you still brave the theater, I suggest you sit far enough away so that you don't get dizzy. In short, any other director the next time around will be fine with me.

UPDATE: Here's at least one critic who had the same experience, and says it more concisely:
    Shakey camera is not a style. It does not simulate any kind of real life stress. I’ve been quite jostled in my life, and I don’t know about you, but my vision stays steady. Shakey cam is a sloppy excuse for not being able to shoot something interestingly. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with a locked off shot. It’s nice to see the scenery.