Friday, October 31, 2003

Speaking of Sci-Fi channel, am I alone in finding it an absolute joke of a network? Maybe it's because I work all day, and miss all of thier "real" programming, but man, alive, it seems like all they air is John Edwards and grade D garbage with bottom-tier casts.

I wonder if this is just the kind of drivel that USA networks thinks Sci-Fi is, and consequently they don't even bother trying for quality, or if this is all the network's able to afford to air.

It certainly isn't helping the public's perception of the genre.

I mean, come on! John Edwards? John Edwards?

Even Chris Angel. I'm diggin' that he's on TV, but on Sci-Fi?

Magic on TV This year's Halloween magic show entries seem pretty good--Chris Angel, a dark, mystical magician, who's kind of a hybrid of David Copperfield and H. P. Lovecraft, has a special on the Sci-Fi Channel. Comedy Central, meanwhile, will be airing an episode of "Comedy Central Presents" that features The Amazing Jonathan.

I'll post reviews after I catch them, so you can know whether to watch them as they are rerun into eternity . . .

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Oh, thank goodness. Everything's going to be okay after Brad and Jen hit the Mid-East.

In the meantime, maybe Ted Danson and Barbara Streisand can negotiate with the wildfires.

In regards to the boy who got suspended for drawing the marine killing the terrorist, people are missing the real issue here. The fact is, the boy failed to get backing from the stick figure UN before taking action against the stick figure terrorist. The stick figure marine simply cannot act unilaterally, no matter how many stick figure deaths the stick figure terrorist may have been responsible for. has posted this year's Halloween cartoon. It's chock-full of inside jokes for longtime fans and silly easter eggs.

My favorite thing about these halloween cartoons is that they make absolutely no attempts to be timely or trendy in thier selection of costumes, thereby preserving the timelessness of the cartoons. M. Bison? Magnum, PI? The best is still Homestar's costume from a couple of years ago.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Come on down!Rod Roddy has passed away from Breast Cancer. Apparently it affects about 1,500 men a year. Possibly more, but since so few men think to look for it, many who die of other causes had it, but it goes undiagnosed.

My current disdain for game shows is a fairly recent development. As a kid I loved the Showcase Showdowns, and always felt let down if they failed to come up with a cutesy, semi-logical "theme" for the showcase, somehow creating unity between what usually amounted to a vacation, a vehicle, an appliance, a piece of furniture, and a box of a cleaning product. I think writing copy for that show demanded the same level of creativity as writing for the Weekly World News.

So this morning Bill Handel decides to go off on a bunch of callers who were calling in to report a fairly popular rumor that's been going around. The gist of it is something like this: The federal government, at the request of a Republican Congressman, had prepped some giant fire dropping airplanes that were sitting on the runway waiting to go out, but weren't in the air, because Grey Davis refused to formally request them.

Handel went off on these callers, and told them to use their heads. Did they really think any public official would intentionally let something like that go undone? Just because he was a (heaven forbid!) Democrat?

Sure enough, after some research, it was discovered Davis had requested the planes, but due to federal law, the planes couldn't be called into service until all private sector equipment was already in use.

Handel's point is valid--it's ridiculous to assume that everyone from the other party is inherently evil, and deliberately trying to cause havoc and spread suffering.

But wait a minute . . . isn't that exactly what President Bush is accused of doing? Deliberately trying to cause havoc and spread suffering, for no real purpose? Of deliberately shorting supplies to our troops, deliberately murdering innocent Iraqis, deliberately poisoning our air, deliberately alienating the world? Aren't the Dems searching like mad for proof that Sept. 11th was deliberately allowed to happen?

Let's show that coin on both sides, Bill! It ain't just Republicans that do it.

They've posted sketches of the suspect in the Old Fire arson.

I didn't know Richard Kiel was a firebug!

This map is the best one I've seen for pictures of my neighborhood, and how the fire afffected it.

The intersection from which I said I couldn't see the campus is the one right above the U in University. The blank space to the right of Cal State is the hill they burned as a backfire.

(This map was posted at Freespace, whose coverage of the fire is to be commended. I am to be commended for posting the incident report about the grey van a full 24 hours before the TV news was reporting it. No, I am not above patting myself on the back.)

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Well, around the world and home again.

To answer a couple of questions: Although we were already headed out, by the time we were out the door, the ambulance was circling our apartments telling everybody to leave.

I'm shooting out a pic to a lot of you to show you how close I was to the fire. I won't be posting it on the net, but if you'd like it, let me know and an I'll shoot you a copy. (It's basically the old photo altered with arrows.)

We're back home now, and doing fine. The other side of the hill behind Cal State is still burning, so we may have to go again.

Thanks for all the phone calls and emails.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

According to the CHP dispach logs 9:59 am listing, here's the report associated with the fire:

9:59AM - 1039 I4

The 18 is the Highway designation for Waterman Ave, the road the fire started on.

Alright, here's a little more info. I live very near Cal State in the area that was evacuated earlier today. We had decided we were heading out as soon as we heard Cal State was being evacuated, but by the time I got back from Hemet, where I was working, to pick her up, the fire was right behind Cal State.

By the time we got our stuff and our two little girls in the car and drove out, we couldn't even see Cal State from the corner of Univeristy and Kendall, which is the next stoplight from the entrance to the university.

After I got my wife and girls down to Rialto, my Dad and I went up to see how things looked, and so I could be on hand to help if any members of my church (or anybody else) needed help evacuating. By that point the hill behind my apartments had completely burned, but the apartments were okay. I'm taking that to mean we're out of trouble, since there's nothing more to burn to bring the fire back to us.

In the meantime, the fire is spreading northwest towards Glen Helen/the area where the Little Leauge regional headquarters is located, and southeast into north Highland. My house is pretty close to all the burned up homes they're showing on the news around 40th st.

When I left for Hemet this morning, I could see almost the entire fire off the side of the mountain from the thirty. The radio said, at that point, it was 20 acres.

When I came back I couldn't even see the sun for the thick layer of dark black smoke that covered everything. It was literally like something out of an apocalyptic movie. As of the last report at incident control, the fires at 6,000 acres. (But if that's as gross an underestimation as the current "50+ homes" report is, we're in trouble).

There are few sites I've seen I will never forget. One is the way the smoke was gushing into the air a block away from me, as I tried to get my wife and kids as far from there as I could.

Well, this fire has forced Marci and I to get the girls out of dodge. We are okay, and at my folks house in Rialto. I'll keep you updated.

Amazon's new feature: I really enjoy's new search feature. Amazon now gives you the ability to search within the contents of individual books rather than just the titles and subjects.

For example, by typing in the science fiction term, "ansible," I was able to generate enough links that I was highly tempted to write a paper following the origin of the term, just because so many obvious resources were there.

It does seem to be slowing down their server, and giving more, "this page cannot be displayed" errors, but I'm sure they'll take care of it quickly.

Knock yourselves out.

Just to give everybody a sense of closure: Since I posted when he was in, I should probably post now that he's out. Yeah, David Blaine stepped out of the box, finally. There was no "illusion," no surprise, "poof, I'm gone, now I'm behind this tree!" dramatic ending. He just stepped out.

This is what I enjoy about Blaine. Rather than, say, walking through the great wall of China, Blaine is doing stuff that almost seems remotely plausible. People could almost buy that he was just standing in a block of ice for three days. People are buying now that this is some kind of starvation stunt. By taking the "razzle dazzle" out of magic, he's reintroducing some of the plausibility and wonder and discussion that makes magic interesting.

When David Copperfield shoves a girl in an alien space box and makes her vanish, the audience shrugs and says, "Gee, there must be something about that alien space box I didn't understand." When Blaine acts, it's with ordinary props, ordinary situations that people feel they understand and are familiar with. Sort of like "psychics" who bend spoons and fix broken watches. We understand spoons and broken watches, and so its easier to believe.

And, because we understand them, it's more fun to speculate on how it's done. Alien Space boxes force us to concede that there are mirrors or trapdoors or something. Props we understand force us to get creative with solutions, and thinking of creative solutions is part of the fun of watching magic.

The last thing he's doing, and doing well, is creating images, lasting images, for the public consciousness. The image of the man buried alive, or frozen in ice, or standing atop the pole, or trapped in a box--these are going to stick with us, whether we enjoy Blaine or not. That's the point that guys like Roeper miss when they call him "boring." He's not about dancing and scantily clad women. He's giving you an image, one that's going to make you remember him. (Not that Roeper doesn't generally manage to miss the point.)

He's being billed as the Anti-Houdini, and in a lot of ways that's true. Houdini represented that inherently American desire to break out and be free. Blaine is going against that and staying in the box. It jars at all of our psyches, because on some level we want him out of there, we feel it's wrong for him to be in there. That conflict creates an impression on our mind. Whatever feeling that is--or whether he's managed to create that feeling at all--tells you how well his art has affected you.

The eleven year old boy quoted in the article sums up the attitude of a lot of us, whether we like it or not. He felt Blaine was, "stupid," but was still going to keep the bin-bag Blaine tossed to the crowd as "a souvenir."

From the "This Sounds Like the Setup For a Joke" file: My brother summed this up best, when he asked, "Is this for real?" Wow. Just . . . wow. (Thanks to Freespace for pointing this out. )

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Obscure Movie Review of the Day: Making Contact aka Joey

In this one, a boy whose father whose father has recently died gains the power to communicate with his father, as well as move stuff with his mind. Ultimately he must decide who to trust--the voice of his father, or the voice of the talking ventriloquest dummy that's trying to convince him it's all a lie.

This early outing of Roland Emmerich (who later went on to direct Independence Day and Godzilla) can be viewed on two levels. The first, and obvious, one is this: A young Emmerich was trying desperately to be like all of his favorite big Hollywood studio directors. The homages are blantant and heavy handed--not only do half the scenes feel directly lifted from Speilberg and Lucas films, but half the stuff in the house has a picture of a Speilberg or Lucas character on it.

There are times where he manages to pull the "homage" off--the early scene where toys are getting buggy while the door starts to glow (sound close-encounters-esque?) works really well--the glowing red plastic phone that's ultimately behind that door does not. In the scenes where boys are in the tunnels underneath the old house (Goonies, anyone?) and have to face their fears, it's pretty cool when Darth Vader comes after one of them (sound like the cave scene in Empire?) but pretty lame when a giant cheeseburger comes after one of them (and it was lame in Young Sherlock Holmes, too).

But on another level--man, it was cool to be a kid. There were times when I was looking at these boys running around with their too-long mop-tops and v-neck t-shirts and their Return of the Jedi bedsheets that I felt like I was watching one of the "movies" my brothers and I used to make in the backyard with my Dad's old video camera.

In a lot of ways, I think that's what Emmerich was here--a kid playing around with a camera. And it looks like he and the real kids had a good time making it. That doesn't neccesarily mean everyone will have a good time watching it, but I did.

Sort of.

Blogging is interresting. It's essentially like standing on a soapbox in Hyde Park in London, shouting at the masses, wondering if anybody's listening to you, if the look on that fellow's face as he stares at you is because you're insightful, or because you have something on your nose. It's pretty much a solitary activity, like journal writing, but as people begin to follow each other's links, it ends up becoming oddly communal. Sort of like how all the Hyde Park guys would get to know each other, I'm sure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Speaking of Screwtape The absolute best audiobook I've ever heard was John Cleese's reading of The Screwtape Letters. Cleese has the perfect voice and attitude for satire, and at times makes Lewis's work laugh out loud funny.

The absolute worst audiobooks I've heard are the Roddy McDowall readings of L. Ron Hubbard's works. McDowall manages to drain absolutely every speck of life out of everything he reads. And considering how loquacious Mr. Hubbard can get--I must admit to never even having managed to finish an abridgment.

Make the drums stop! Frustrated that their site hadn't been updated since the 15th, I gave Phobos Books a call. Found out they're more than a month behind, and haven't even selected the finalists yet, let alone send them to the jury for judging. But I was assured by the very nice woman I talked to the whole thing would be done, "Before the holidays."

By popular demand: Tim Sandefur requests that I weigh in on an article from the Claremont Institute that implies that people who are using Christianity as a justification for their pacifism are merely promoting a "progressive' Christian point of view' that is out of touch with "the traditional American view of Christian theology," citing the religious views of the original founding fathers as an example of what he feels to be proper Christian thinking.

Tim knows my feelings on this issue--I'm the "Mormon reader" who wrote in in response to his last rant on this (My letter is immediately above his comments).

I really hate to see religious groups abused by the right wing in exactly the same way minorities abused by the left wing. Their votes are taken for granted the vast majority of the time, and they are called upon for support at such a time as their beliefs are valuable to the cause--at such times, the more radical and devout they are, the better. However, when their views don't jibe with what the right-wingers want--well, then we need to be a little more tolerant, don't we? Bring our thinking into more modern times? Stop being such hard-liners.

Or, the opposite, as in the article linked to. Ask them what happened to their devotion. Accuse them of following their own ideas rather than "true Christianity."

Christians get played all three ways, depending on the issue.

So basically he's doing exactly the same thing he's accusing the publishers of sojourners of doing--telling people how to be Christians.

The only real "umbrella" he even implies for what constitutes a Christian is "people who believe as the founding fathers believed."

Well, I can buy that. I just hope he accepts my definition of what kind of Christians the founding fathers were, which is, "Christians whose beliefs about Christianity differed enough that they knew to just leave it alone and write a constitution."

It reminds me, actually, of my years at BYU. Ironically, it when I was most surrounded by Mormons that I most often found myself being questioned for my religous beliefs. Whereas "I don't do that. I'm Mormon," had always been good enough answer for my friends growing up, at BYU it drew responses like, "Well, the Prophet hasn't actually made a statement on that," or, "What the guy who said that was really trying to say was . . ." I was stunned to realize how much less understanding the people whose beliefs are closest to yours can be!

As for what kind of Christian this extreme politicizing makes you into--that's covered in one of the first couple chapters of The Screwtape Letters.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I'm a geek, but this looks great. I missed the end of both this cartoon, and Calvin and Hobbes, since I was busy in Brazil. My dear mother was kind enough to send me the last strips from both cartoons, so I could feel like a part of things.

I remember feeling really grateful, like she had helped me be a part of something important.

Man. I really am a geek.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

I'm going to be speaking tonight at the church's Young Adult Fireside at 7pm at the Northpark building. Anybody who wants to can come, if you're going to be in the neighborhood.

Obscure Movie Review of the Day: Captain America

Not the 1970's motorcycle-riding Captain America, this one was cranked out of 21st Century Films shortly after the first Batman movie made a bazillion dollars.

Bad doesn't even begin to describe it. The movie is two-thirds over before we see the the star-spangled one display the least degree of competence, and absolutely every single plot point depends on someone being absolutely bone-headed about something.

And my having sat through it clear to the end doesn't make me much less bone-headed.

Besides the laughable boomerang shield effects, the dialogue has got to be the worst part of the movie--my favorite line, said by Cap, to himself, as he wanders through the forests of Canada: "I have no idea where I am, but home's got to be south of here."

I think everybody involved in this was just as lost.

Friday, October 17, 2003

My brother's getting married tommorow at the new Temple that the church has built in Redlands. Another brother and I were both maried in Los Angeles, and just a couple months ago, another brother was married in San Diego.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. How many brothers does that make?

Don't even get me started. My wife had as many brothers as there are people in my whole family.

So how did I end up with nothing but girls?

Caterpillar Attacks Mouse: You've probably seen this lawsuit. However, according to the precedents set in the Cuisinart vs. Gremlins decision back in the mid-eighties, you can use pretty much anything you want as a weapon in the movies and nobody's going to be dumb enough to think it's the weapon that's evil.

Unless, of course, it's a gun.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

In honor of Tim's 27th birthday (since I think he's one of only two people who read this page) I wanted to post a link to the 27 list. And in trying to find it (no, I'm not a big enough dork to have it bookmarked), I discovered this. Couldn't they just use the money they're paying for web hosting?

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I'm also anxiously awaiting the results of this year's Phobos writing contest. They're supposed to come out today, and I've got a decent piece in it. There's a barely audible drumroll happening in my head today . . . .

Here's a long interview Penn did with IGN film force. The interview is cool, but so's the site, if you dig the movie rumor stuff. If you don't dig Penn, or movie rumors, the go googlism yourself.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Oh, and be sure to check out Penn Jillette's article on misdirection for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Well, now I won't see it. Will Ferrill has been attached to the big screen version of Bewitched. I think the reason this guy seems to pop up in every comedy movie to come out of Hollywood is because he's very, very aware of how abysmally unfunny he is, and is afraid casting directors might realize it before he stockpiles enough cash to survive the Hollywood Squares years. He's even going to spoil my five-year-old self's favorite book by playing The Man in the Yellow Hat.

I hope he dies soon enough that I get the chance to dance on his grave.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

I must point out the following exhange I had with Papa Moose, though, the OSC fan who won the trivia contest at Endercon, and consequently became a character in Card's new book:


It was pretty fun. I had a good time, and I didn't even vote for an actor or journalist or porn star. Or slime ball.

Papa Moose:

Skipped that question, huh?

I had some points in this thread over at that I didn't want to try to recreate here, because a lot of them need to be read in context, but I still thought were worth a gander.

Don't worry, I won't point you to everything I write at Hatrack. But these are pretty much my feelings on these issues.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Come on and watch 'em run . . . .

It's amazing how many votes a margin-of-error candidate can get.

On my ballot, the little line I drew for Tom McClintock was exactly opposite the little line I drew on the other side of the paper to vote yes on the recall. If my marker would have bled, I still would have been okay.

. . . ballots really aren't that hard to use . . .

I have the coolest friends: Everyone I've talked to so far today voted for Tom McClintock. You all just rock.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

I guess I have to say something about the Rush situation.

The most damaging thing, in my mind, is the image of him standing in Denny's parking lots at night like a hoodlum. Despite the constant accusations of conservative hypocracy by the liberals (that we'll pick on Clinton when he's naughty, but stand up for our own people) the fact is that scandal does destroy conservative politicians, and it can effect conservative commentators as well.

The comments about McNabb were less pithy than everybody wants to make them. I remember pretty much the opposite being said about Larry Bird on more than one occasion and no resignations were tendered and no heads were served up on platters, and, likely as not, the comments about Bird were probably true. The McNabb comments probably are, too.

It was probably wise of Rush to give up the job, though. Can you imagine the uproar if he actually had said anything with teeth?

In case you weren't aware, David Blaine has been hanging out in a box in England. It's created quite the media frenzy, as he's had an assasination scare, a nut try to cut his water tube, and mocking him declared to be the mark of a true Brit.

I guess the Brits need something to keep them entertained, since they can't hold royal recall elections.

Although I would like to vote for Rowan Atkinson for prime minister.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003