In the news of the discomforting, the BBC is reporting that French surgeons (natch) have performed the first face transplant:
    Surgeons in France have carried out the first face transplant, it has been reported.
    The woman had lost her nose, lips and chin after being savaged by a dog.

    In the controversial operation, tissues, muscles, arteries and veins were taken from a brain-dead donor and attached to the patient's lower face.

    Doctors stress the woman will not look like her donor, but nor will she look like she did before the attack - instead she will have a "hybrid" face.
I'm hard pressed to think of another procedure that has considerable physical, ethical, and psychological dangers. Firstly, the donor must still be alive (presumably in a catatonic state). Taking another's face just is creepy in itself. Obviously, the concept has been explored before in films, none more unsettling than John Frankenheimer's Seconds. It's only a matter of time until this procedure is perfected and as elective as a face-lift.


Least Favorite Movies
I could start with some outrage, some pithy, biting comments about the author, but really what I have is just shock that I really like 5 of Jaquandor's 10-least favorite films. Of all time. Hell, I would put two of them in my top twenty list, but that's moot. I suppose it just reconfirms my notion that people are predisposed to like different things. I also know this because I sat down and debated the king of tomfoolery on IM about the validity of The Usual Suspects, and after forty minutes of frenzied typing we were no closer to agreeing on anything, except that we disagree.

Of course, this might fortell my involvement in the hater's club by listing my most-hated films, but I choose to not participate in the exercise. This is not because I don't want to act like a fan-boy-hater (although that should be excuse enough), it's because I can't recall that I've actually made myself sit through a movie that I, over the course of the film, started to despise. If you have done so, and you aren't paid to write reviews, then you are a tool. It would be a lot better to write about beginning or ends of movies (or books -- I can get list out right now for that) that caused me to just tune out or turn off the DVD or throw the book across the room.

Okay I've teased enough -- short list of books that I've thrown across the room from disgust at some point:
    LOTR: Fellowship of the Rings -- Mid-beginning. After about six goddam chapters of 'they're walking', I got really really bored and I never bothered to read any further. Borrrrrring.
    Along Came a Spider -- Beginning. Nominated for most childish and obvious use of foreshadowing ever in a sentence, there was a passage in chapter two that read like the guy writing it was twirling his mustache. I could not believe that someone didn't stop him. Literally, I chucked the book at the wall.
    The Lovely Bones -- Ending. The only book I have read to 'jump the shark' at the end. The first 300 pages are an amazing, heartrending, well-written masterpiece. When the main character suddenly, inexpicably, turns the novel into science fantasy, the heavy brakes are put on. I had to re-read the passage six times because I couldn't believe the writer pulled that stunt. If you've read this book you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Now that's a list you can agree with. Or disagree. Whatever.
The Rise of Vader
It didn't take long for the Extended Universe to pick up after Revenge of the Sith. Just released, Star Wars: Dark Lord - Rise of Darth Vader purports to follow the exploits of Vader immediately after his birth and demonstrate how he earned his reputation. I'm a lot more intrigued to read this stuff than the (albeit excellent) Labyrinth of Evil, the lead-in to ROTS. Probably because we've never been told the story of Vader in-between episodes III and IV, the last remaining hallowed canon ground of Star Wars. Also probably because I'm quite the fan.

Via The Force.net
Farewell and adieu...
To one of the greatest jackasses that I have ever seen play the game of NFL football, T.O. is officially done for the season. I'm thrilled to have this pain's 4-week suspension upheld by the arbitrator, just as I am the decision by Andy Reid to bench him for the remainder of the season until he can be shipped out. Granted, I'm not happy that we haven't won any games in the meantime, but that's not really all about T.O. In fact, our QB needed to have surgery weeks ago and was never 100% this year, and our defense has been atrocious. The fact is, our whole team has been beat up, bruised, and mentally battered this season (and off-season), and it's time to take care of business. First step, get rid of distractions, step two, get healthy.

And, yes, I was a supporter of T.O. for the last two years, much like an understanding or tolerant parent. [Most of the venom I'd hear about were from fans of other teams, which I found to be ridiculous. That these people would be so preoccupied with our player and his antics certainly confirmed that (the vast majority of them:) Redskins fans desperately needed a winning season.] And, like a parent who has a troubled but talented kid, you make excuses, bend the rules, and try to see things from his perspective so that things will work out. But there comes a time when you realize your kid has been acting like a spoiled primadonna and has been consistently pushing the envelope to see just how far he can get away with things. Worse, it's likely he doesn't even realize what he's doing is hurtful, wrong, and stupid.

The parental organization, tired of his constant backtalk, beratement of their quarterback and leader, and overall whining, took the necessary step of punishing their supremely talented and unruly receiver. And like any spoiled kid, once he realized that he couldn't get away with it any more and he might have to pay for his wrongs, he immediately turned repentant and humble, trying to pull the wool over everyone's eyes. Only daddy Eagle didn't buy it for a second. Neither did the arbitrator. [Neither did my father, when I was acting like a brat, to his credit. I remember my dad telling me on the way home from some social function at which I misbehaved that I was going to get a spanking later. I can tell you that is the worst feeling to know it's coming, and I tried, like T.O. (although I'm just not quite as strong), to talk my way out of it.]

T.O.'s going to his room without supper for the rest of 2005. If he's allowed to come out and play by another stepfather who thinks he has a sterner stick, it'll be interesting to see if in the form of timeouts or spankings (for the record, T.O. just got spanked). Good luck with that. And good riddance.


Watching, waiting, hoping
After this week's solid 31-22 win at Michigan State, the Penn State Nittany Lions have claimed the Big Ten title and the automatic BCS bid, which, thanks to the Miami loss this weekend, parks them squarely at #3, on the doorstep to, dare I write it, a national championship game. Damn, if Fresno State had a little more, they'd be in it right now.

Joey Johnson has a good article on the Lions and their amazing turnaround that has them on the verge of a national championship game:
    USC has a 33-game winning streak, but it must defeat cross-town rival UCLA on Dec. 3. There’s another 50-42 game waiting to happen. So you must at least acknowledge the possibility of a USC defeat, even though the Trojans have beaten the Bruins six straight times.

    Texas has proven its talent and depth — over and over again. A loss at Texas A&M on Friday afternoon? Don’t see it. A loss to, say, Colorado, at the Big 12 championship game on Dec. 3? Don’t see that either. But you never really know.

    Just in case, the Nittany Lions await. More than a consolation prize, they would be worthy of the Rose Bowl, although the argument would be tremendous in the one-loss community.

    LSU, Virginia Tech, Oregon, UCLA, West Virginia and even TCU might be in the conversation. And let’s not forget that a trio of two-loss teams — Auburn, Ohio State and Notre Dame — might be playing better than anybody right now.

    But on merit, not sentiment, Paterno and Penn State have earned their spot at the front of the line.

    Penn State began the season unranked and unloved, picked for somewhere near the middle of the Big Ten standings. Paterno, who had four losing teams in the past five seasons, had been ransacked by critics who insisted he should retire. The only thing he could do by sticking around, they said, was harm his reputation.

    Instead, Paterno has enhanced it.
Yeah, the odds are against Texas or USC blowing up in the next couple weeks, but it's a shot. Although a lot of people really want to see the Texas-USC matchup, and might be disappointed if one of them stumbles, the media would soon forget about that. The story of the year, the underdog comeback of this century would be how Joe Paterno, who that same media tried to have run out of town last year, brought his team back to the top of the heap. Actually, that story is already playing out -- it's just a matter of if it completes at the Orange or the Rose Bowl.
Nic Fit
I don't really have bad nicotine cravings, at least not to the point where I'd try to open an airplane door in mid-flight for a smoke.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Mediocrity
In an admirable attempt to keep the same principle leads for each movie before they start growing noticably too old for the parts, the producers of the Harry Potter film series have been cranking them out at a pretty rapid rate, each successive film already in pre-production before the current one is released. After Chris Columbus did the first two movies, unsatisfied with the constant work schedule and aware that the prolific Rowling has five more books in the queue, he relented the reigns as director for the third installment, opening the door for Alfonso Cuaron. He, with the third movie, The Prisoner of Azkaban, took advantage of darker and more complex material to craft a stand-alone masterpiece, a film with atmosphere, drama, and feeling that immediately commanded a place in my DVD collection (where the previous two had not). Almost immediately after my experience at the theater was complete, and knowing Goblet of Fire was already in production with director Mike Newell at the helm, I wondered two things: (1) Did he know that the gauntlet had been thrown down, and (2) Was he sweating?

The title of this little excursion should clue you in to my answer to those questions. Suddenly becoming a litmus test of a director's chops, Newell showed unerring fair-to-goodness in making an enjoyable film, a good film, a sure-fire pretty okay time at the movies. Clocking in at nearly 2.5 hours, the best compliment I have was that it didn't seem like it was that long. Granted, Newell had to cram in 700+ pages of a great book into watchable time, so the task was daunting to begin with, and unfortunately, for the first forty minutes, we feel rushed through the story. The first third of the book dealt with the Quidditch World Cup, an event that I overheard several people in the audience pre-screening eagerly anticipating. What we got amounted to a cameo, with the Cup getting maybe about 2 minutes of screen time. Out of 147. This set a precedent in my mind from which the film never really recovered.

Newell doesn't butcher the film, but compared to Cuaron's vision, he seems like a pretender. The look of the movie is nearly identical to Cuaron's, with that same slightly-washed out look and darker, edgier sets. But it feels like a copycat move rather than a direction, and without a steadier guide at the wheel, you end up with a bland facsimile of a film. It's good because of the material, but not any better because of the director. Like the first two installments of the series, it's passable, enjoyable to a point, and certainly worth a rental. It is not worth sitting next to some kids who won't shut up during the film (I won't even get into the fact that their mother brought two under-10 year-olds to a PG-13 film on opening day, when clearly she hadn't screened the film herself. I hope they have nightmares -- there are some squirmy scenes indeed.).

Again, this isn't a bad film. It is a good film representation of a great novel, but it doesn't have feeling, it doesn't have urgency, and well, it won't have my DVD money either.


Rivalry weekend
Well, it has come down to the last regular season game for my Penn State Nittany Lions. On Saturday (nationally televised on ESPN at 4 PM), we have a chance to outright win the Big Ten championship with a victory at our rival Michigan State. Said victory would ensure that we would represent in the BCS, and the way things are looking right now, that would mean a matchup against our 'old school' rivals Miami (not of Ohio) in the Orange Bowl. Although there is a chance that USC and Texas could lose one of their remaining games and thus catapult us (given a win Saturday, knock on wood), in practical terms, that is just plain betting on a horse with bad odds. Or, to get even more colloquial, "that dog just won't hunt."

Back when PSU entered the Big Ten in '93, I had mixed feelings about us joining a conference. It was done to help all our other school sports -- football, which it goes without saying but I'll say it anyway, was a national independent powerhouse (thanks in no small part to JoePa). Ironically, the program I wish it helped more than it has, basketball, continues to be average, although we did have the notorious catchphrase-generating upset victory against North Carolina in the 2001 NCAA tourney. (For those of you who aren't familiar with my antics, after that game I kept my arms raising above my head, and for months after that, 'arms raised in victory' became part of my IM and demonstrative language.)

Up until that time, Penn State's regular season schedule would always include Miami and Notre Dame, two teams that we considered to be rivals. Those games were, for lack of a better descriptor, awesome. Although, the Big Ten is a nationally respected top-tier conference, with plenty of excellent teams, I thought it wasn't worth losing those great games.

As it is with all conferences, rivarlies are a central part of the life-blood of college sports. No game inspires more good ol' hatred than playing against your arch-nemesis. For PSU, that nemesis was to be Michigan State. Michigan State? Hwuh? I remember thinking that Michigan or Ohio State would be better (read: more worthy) matchups than MSU, but of course, theirs is the best college football rivalry going.

This year, for example was particularly demonstrative of that mentality. Since the beginning of the season, I've been saying that the Ohio State game was the biggest game of the year for us. It turned out to be a helluva game, and ESPN's second-largest audience ever. The following week, our heartbreaking last-play (last second) loss to Michigan left me in shock for days afterward. God, how I wanted to win that game, and I am so proud of our team's amazing comeback effort and 4th Quarter drive (in which we survived two fourth-and-long plays. In Ann Arbor, that ain't no joke.

In short, I just don't get up for Michigan State like I do for these other teams. But that is slowly changing. It has taken a few years (11, to be specific), but I am slowly coming to dread/anticipate our annual season-ending showdown for the Land Grant Trophy. This year, because we have so much at stake and they are in position to be a huge spoiler. This year, because they would love to take us down a notch from our comeback-season. This year, because they are jerks and our boys are going to fight our enemies with the venom they deserve. Rivalry weekend, indeed.