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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Wanna see Bill Cosby and Harvey Keitel driving around in an ambulance?!

I was just checking the TV listings for this evening and if you've got the Fox Movie Channel and haven't "gotten" into Lost yet, you got a real treat tonight. At 8 p.m. EST they're running Mother, Jugs & Speed, starring Bill Cosby, Harvey Keitel, and Raquel Welch. It's a nice little gem from 1976 about a private ambulance company that's fighting both a competitor for a contract from the city, and its own internal conflicts. Bill Cosby is "Mother": the hardened veteran driver who flaunts all the rules in the book (and has a penchant for scaring nuns while driving his rig). Harvey Keitel is "Speed", and that handle doesn't necessarily reflect how fast he drives either (he's a suspended cop suspected of drug dealing). Raquel Welch is "Jugs": the outfit's dispatcher who wants to work the ambulances like the big boys. Look for more familiar faces like Larry Hagman and Dick Butkus among the cast. It can be a sometimes disturbing movie, especially if you're a fan of Bill Cosby. Be warned: this is the darkest comedy that the Cos has ever done in his career that I can think of. But it's also a pretty darned hilarious movie too: the scene where the lady's stretcher is going out of control down the street cracks me up every time I watch it! Plus, this movie absolutely has one of the all-time funkiest theme songs. Just wait 'til you hear it, you'll have "DANCE!" in your head all night.

If you're still wondering if this movie might be for you, here's Mother, Jugs & Speed's opening monologue from Mr. Fishbine, the owner of the company...

"I don’t have to tell you people times are tough. You read the papers. The country’s going to Hell. Now you take inflation, recession, welfare. There’s nothing we can do about that. But thanks to muggings, malnutrition, assassination, and disease, we got a chance to make a buck! I can see that some of you men must be shocked by that statement, but I didn’t write the rules of life myself, no sir! The cripple, the junkie, the wounded, and the dying. Society calls them all worthless. They’re not worthless. Not to us! To us each one is worth $42.50 plus 50 cents a mile, and let’s not forget it! When it comes to realizing that people in distress will jump into the first rig that shows up, well, then that’s when the drive and enthusiasm of you men will make the difference! But there’s another group out there, men... and I will not dignify the Unity Ambulance Company my mentioning its name, but they want our territory. Our sick! Your jobs! But we’re not gonna let them do it to us, are we men? You bet we’re not! No sir!"

(Jugs tells them they've got a call about a woman in labor)

"A woman in labor. What could be more eloquent than that? Well, it looks like life has it’s own little ways of summing up the situation, doesn’t it men? Gentlemen? The F&B Ambulance Company is rolling!"

I've heard this movie is a rare look at what driving an ambulance is REALLY like. So check it out if you can :-)

C.S. Lewis did not want live-action Narnia movie

The BBC is reporting about a 1959 letter by C.S. Lewis wherein the author stated he did not want a live-action movie of his Narnia books to be produced. An animated version would be another matter but not if it were done by Disney... which Lewis slammed for its "vulgarity"! Lewis further considered that a human-operated Aslan would be "blasphemy".

Gotta wonder what Lewis would think of this coming month's movie, since he was writing decades before the advent of computer-generated imagery.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I pity da fool who don't read this story!!

The Sun over in Great Britain has a great article about the return of Mr. T to the public eye. For the past ten years or so T hasn't been in the spotlight much, mostly because he fought hard (and won) against lymphatic cancer. But now T is set to have the biggest time of his life since he first exploded onto the scene in the early Eighties...
A battle against cancer forced The A Team star to take a break from acting 10 years ago, but now he's healthy and back with a new American reality show, a part in upcoming movie Rocky VI and even his own comic book.

Mr T told us: "I call all this stuff my resurrection, my second coming.

"There's a new generation out there and they like me and I'm honoured by that and grateful to God.

"We are going to start filming Rocky VI soon, with me as Clubber Lang again, and we're also starting work right now on my new show - which is called I Pity The Fool.

"Unlike all the other reality programmes, it is going to be about helping people. We're not going to be eating worms or swapping wives.

"For example a lady might write to me saying she's having trouble at a car dealership, because she's the only female employee and the men are harassing her. So I'll go in and straighten things out.

"I learn about the situation, observe for a couple of days and then call the guys into a meeting and give them the Mr T rap - 'I tell you fools, you don't disrespect no lady. My mum is a lady.'

"I don't get physical with anyone but I talk to them man to man and brother to brother."

The reality show bit I think is pretty ironic, 'cuz it made me think back to that commercial for the Oregon lottery from five years ago ("T needs a foot rub! Who's gonna give Mr. T a foot rub?"). I dunno about the whole idea behind a new Rocky movie but it'll be great seeing T returning to the role that first propelled him to fame. It's a nice long article and it shows a lot of the legendary soft-hearted nature that Mr. T became renowned for as much as his mohawk and gold chains... which he's not wearing anymore.

But I can't end this without first posting my all-time favorite photo of Mr. T. Circa 1984 at the White House...

Good news: Diebold Voting may be leaving North Carolina

Diebold - one of THE MOST EVIL companies in American history - may be leaving North Carolina and taking its damnable voting machines with it. A judge is refusing to protect the company from having to release the source code behind its voting software.

When it comes to voting there MUST be a paper trail, something that can be readily tabulated by hand if need be. The bastitches at Diebold have - maybe even intentionally - been undermining the sanctity of the ballot box all over the country. There's no telling how much damage they've done through their computerized voting systems. No doubt there'll be some people who'll act all smug about that, but those people aren't even real Americans in my book. Diebold isn't a real American company either. May all their machines meet the business end of a sledgehammer, and not soon enough.

Superman returns... through Development Hell

The Agony Booth has an extremely detailed synopsis of the bizarre saga of the last 15-some years regarding the attempt to make a new Superman movie. The story begins in 1987 with what went wrong on Superman IV on through the mid-90s, up to 2004. Among the story's more insane moments: Jim Carrey as Brainiac, Warner Brothers' Jon Peters not knowing who "this Kal-El guy" is (?!?), attempts to strip Superman of his ability to fly (?!?!?!?), and more lunacy than you might be prepared to readily believe. A definite must-read for anyone who's interested the least bit in the movie production process.

Man caught stealing $200,000 worth of LEGOs

A 40-year old man is sitting in jail in Oregon after being caught with more than $200,000 worth of stolen LEGO bricks...
To haul away the evidence, agents working for the U.S. Postal Inspector said they had to back a 20-foot truck to William Swanberg's house in Reno, Nev., carting away mountains of the multicolored bricks...

Target officials contacted police after noticing the same pattern at their stores in the five western states. A Target security guard stopped Swanberg at a Portland-area store on Nov. 17, after he bought 10 boxes of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon set.

In his parked car, detectives found 56 of the Star Wars set, valued at $99 each, as well as 27 other Lego sets. In a laptop found inside Swanberg's car, investigators also found the addresses of numerous Target stores in the Portland area, their locations carefully plotted on a mapping software.

Looks like the charges are seriously stacked against this guy. Prosecutors are no doubt building a strong case against him...

Okay, jokes aside, my mind does boggle at the thought of fifty-six Millennium Falcon LEGO sets. Lisa got me one this past Christmas, and it had enough bricks in it that it took me the longest time of any LEGO set to put together:about 7 hours, after the 6.5 it took me to finish the LEGO AT-AT walker. I just can't comprehend having fifty-six of these things laying around. Inside one car no less, too. To say nothing of all those LEGOs he had in his house.

This is gonna be one story I won't be able to get out of my head for a long time to come, I think :-)

Forcery on iPod

If you own one of those snazzy new iPods with video capability and you're looking for some new content to put on it, this one's for you. I spent the past few days working on a new encoding of Forcery that's optimized for play on the iPod. My goal was to have a version that's not only tailor-made for the iPod but also have the same average specs as the new episodes of Lost and other shows that are being sold through iTunes. I don't own an iPod with which to test this but at 320x180 resolution with a 16:9 aspect ratio, compressed with MPEG-4 encoding, this should work just fine. Wish I did have an iPod to put this on though: it'd be pretty cool to carry my own movie around to show to people. But I'm holding out for a few years at least, hoping that Apple will eventually make a version with owner-replaceable batteries 'cuz having it built-in and irreplaceable sucks. 'Sides, right now I'm perfectly happy with my Dell Pocket DJ: a VERY nice MP3 player (with better battery life than the iPod according to many sources). This was really an experiment for my own sake for the most part: just me playing around with MP4 encoding and such. But anyway, if you want some free watchin' on your iPod without having to make it yourself and you don't mind that being almost an hour long this'll probably deplete half of your player's full battery charge, and you still haven't watched our little parody of Stephen King's Misery about George Lucas and an obsessed Star Wars fan, here you go:
Forcery for iPod - 254 MB

Monday, November 28, 2005

Lisa's review of Walk The Line

There was one line from the movie that really stuck with Lisa, so she made it the title of her own review of Walk The Line. She's really getting into this blogging business now :-) Sometime between now and Christmas we're going to work on some custom graphics for it, make it look sweet. In the meantime, enjoy her thoughts on the new Johnny Cash biopic.

Bush: All hat and no cattle on illegal immigration

So, Bush is now trying to "talk tough" on the topic of illegal immigration. Based on all the polls I'm seeing, it's heartwarming to know that the American people are REALLY seeing through this latest charade of his.

More than any other issue, this is why George W. Bush is the most traitorous President in American history. He's had five years and counting to stem the flow of illegals coming in across the border. He has done worse than sat on his spoiled, arrogant butt and done nothing: he's literally invited more illegals to come across and add to our already overly-burdened economy and infrastructure. So the mid-term elections are coming up next year and illegal aliens are fast becoming a hot-topic item - that very well might topple the Republicans' hold in the House and Senate - so only now does he try to make it look like he gives a damn. And what do you know: he's talking about STILL having more immigrants come over.

In a sane world, where laws are upheld, Bush would have been hunted down by a posse and shot dead in the streets for this outrage. No wonder when it comes to security he's the most frightened President ever.

No, I'm not sorry. This weak little man is a disgrace to the office of President and on this issue alone, he ranks as the worst President ever. And none of his supporters can possibly defend him on this. Not no way, not no how.

I would say that it feels great to be able to gloat about this, but watching your own country's sovereignty disappear bit by bit while its "leaders" do squat is not something anyone should relish watching. All of you who voted for Bush: you were fooled. If you still would vote for him, you are the worst of fools. Now try and explain this travesty away. I dare you.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Review of Walk The Line

There's a moment in the music video of "Hurt" that has anguished me to look at from the first time I saw it. June Carter Cash - just months before passing away - watching her husband Johnny sing his balladic paraphrase of Ecclesiastes. If you've seen the video, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, do whatever it takes to see it. It's been called the most haunting music video ever: when Trent Reznor - the originator of "Hurt" - saw this, it made him break down sobbing.

The look on her face... man, how do I describe this? It's like she's trying to tell him "Johnny, why are you doing this to yourself?" Johnny Cash, in the twilight of his life, reflecting on empty materialism and the inevitability of loss. Brief flashes from his legendary career: tender moments with June to the bars of Folsom Prison. Bits of action like jumping on moving trains and his movie roles: "Stay the hell away from me you hear!" The video closes with Cash's fingers resting on a piano, closing the cover over the keys. Almost like a coffin lid.

They say that some people preach their own sermon. With "Hurt", Johnny Cash sang his.

I watched "Hurt" yesterday afternoon, just before leaving for the theater with Lisa and Dad - who I said before is just about as big a Johnny Cash fan as they come - to catch the new Cash biopic Walk The Line. Don't know why I did that. I could have listened to some of his songs. One of my favorites is "Sunday Morning Coming Down": only Cash could have sung about having a hangover so well. Or listened to "Ring of Fire" or "I Walk the Line". Something from the height of his career. Instead I chose to watch him reflect on his life for what was to have been the final time. Guess I wanted to examine him from both extremes of his chronology yesterday afternoon. And, I think it had a lot of that effect. Maybe starting it out with something so admittedly depressing is what made me leave Walk The Line believing that in the end this movie is something so powerful and uplifting. About things like life and love, and redemption for one's self.

Starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, Walk The Line depicts the first thirty-odd years of Cash's life, from growing up in rural Arkansas up to the beginning of his marriage with June Carter. The film opens in 1968, minutes before Cash (Phoenix) began recording his live concert at Folsom Prison. A table saw in the prison's woodshop triggers a flashback in Cash's mind: 1944 and a young J.R. Cash listening with his brother Jack to the Carter Family on the radio, with Johnny picking out 14-year old June's voice. We are introduced to Johnny's father Ray - played by Robert Patrick, who has come a long way as an actor from an already great role he had as the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day - and mother Carrie (Shelby Lynne). It's not long afterward that we witness the event that dwelled on Cash's mind for the rest of his life: brother Jack nearly cut in two by the table saw in the woodmill that he worked in, lingering long enough to tell his family about seeing Heaven.

From there we watch as Cash enlists in the Air Force in 1950, where stationed in Germany he begins writing some of his first songs, including "Folsom Prison Blues" after watching a movie about the place. He uses time for calls back home to try and woo young love Vivian (Ginnifer Goodwin) into marriage. Upon return to the states the two marry and live in Memphis, where Cash struggles to both make it as a salesman and fulfill his dream of being a musician. Accompanied by Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant, the "Tennessee Two" (played by Dan John Miller and Larry Bagby), the trio summons up the nerve to approach Sun Records about cutting an album. The execs tell Cash that his style of gospel just won't sell, that he needs to come up with something new... something that he would sing if he only had enough time to live to sing just one song... for them to take an interest. Cash accepts the challenge. He comes home to Vivian to tell her that they made a record.

For a long time after that, Walk The Line becomes not just a movie about Cash, but about all the talent that came from the legendary Sun studios in the mid-1950s. We watch as Cash tours with Jerry Lee Lewis (Waylon Malloy Payne, playing "The Killer" much more outrageously than Dennis Quaid did in my opinion), Roy Orbison (Johnathan Rice), Carl Perkins (Johnny Holiday), and Elvis Presley, played with a considerable amount of conviction by Tyler Hilton. Also along for the tour is June Carter (Witherspoon).

You needn't be told by me about what happens after that: Johnny and June become increasingly smitten with each other, despite the fact that both are married (and then remarried, in Carter's case). Johnny's introduction to - and then dependency on - amphetamines and other drugs. The toll that the constant touring and longing for June have on both Johnny's career and life with his family... especially on Vivian, from whom Johnny becomes increasingly estranged. The inevitable crash of both personal life and public career. Cash's struggle to regain some semblance of both. His idea of recording a live album in front of the inmates at Folsom. And finally the long-percolating union of Johnny and June in marriage. The final scene seemed a little abrupt for me, at first. Then I realized that this is what Cash had been wanting all along: togetherness with a family. It ends at just the right point, and tells us that Johnny and June had a long and beautiful life together before both died within months of each other in 2003.

There are a few other movies that I'm hoping to catch this next month - King Kong, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Syriana, maybe one or two more - but weighed against everything else that I've seen during the past eleven months, Walk The Line is by far the best movie I've seen all year. This is easily the best work that Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon have ever done. Phoenix, it took me awhile to really accept that he is playing Johnny Cash here, and that has to do with a few things that are easily outside the producers' control. But let's face it: it's going to be impossible to find someone who looks and sings exactly like Cash. If you can suspend your disbelief only a degree or two, Phoenix really does become Johnny Cash... or at least as close as anyone is apt to get. Witherspoon is an absolute delight as June Carter. I don't give that much merit to the Oscars, but it really would be a travesty if she isn't nominated for Best Actress for this. In a rational world Robert Patrick will get nominated for Best Supporting Actor (competing against Ian McDiarmid from Star Wars Episode III) for his role as Ray Cash. Just about darned nearly everything is perfect in this film: the acting, the music, the costuming and scenery, the pacing... it all really felt like they were pages taken from Cash's life. Like his proclivity toward performing for incarcerated felons: that wasn't just a "stunt" he did a few times. After the movie Dad told us about he and Mom going to watch Johnny Cash perform at the Greensboro Coliseum about thirty years ago. The entire place was packed except for this one entire section of seats toward the front. Dad said they remained totally empty until five minutes before the show started: dozens of inmates were escorted in under armed guard and shown to the seats, from which they got to enjoy Johnny Cash live in concert. Dad said they remained there until just about everybody else had left, and then they were taken en masse to the buses that drove them back to the local prison. I have to wonder how many concerts in his career did Cash do that for those in prison. It really must have been thought of by him as being an act of Christian charity.

And speaking of which, there are a few things that I wasn't completely satisfied about with Walk The Line, though. If there is a fault with Walk The Line, it must be that it gives very sparse attention to Cash's deep spiritual life. There were four things that defined Johnny Cash: June, his family, his flirtations with excess, and his faith in God. We watch the first three as they lay down their part in the solid foundation of Cash's life, but surprisingly little is shared about his departure from, and then his later intense return to, his profoundly strong belief in Christ. Given their deep friendship and since everybody else - from the Sun execs to Waylon Jennings - is depicted, I was seriously expecting the Rev. Billy Graham to be portrayed in this movie somewhere. That doesn't happen. And Johnny Cash's more spiritual moments are reduced to minor lines about gospel music and one fleeting scene of he and June entering a Baptist church together during his drug rehab. I wanted there to be more about his spiritual life. You see, in a lot of ways I see Johnny Cash as being the perfect example to me of what it means to be a real Christian. I mean, he was a believer, and so am I. But he went his own way in this world, and not necessarily the way that "proper" Christianity most often preaches. He struggled with his faith. Sometimes during those struggles he skirted too close to the darkness. There were moments that he could seem petty, even cruel. That wasn't the real Johnny Cash though. It never was. But to be the person that God made him to be, he couldn't shy away from confronting his faults and weaknesses. To Johnny Cash it wasn't being weak that was the weakness, it was being unwilling to admit to being weak. He not only admitted those foibles, he embraced them with relish. Through his music he gained power over those flaws. It made him not just a Christian, but what I call an "outlaw Christian". And really, is there supposed to be any other way in which to live this life that some of us profess to live? I know there's only so much time in a two-hour plus film to cover a life of more than seventy years, but still... this was the principle cornerstone of Johnny Cash, and it deserved more than a few brief moments of story.

But if you can choose to accept that his faith did have the greater bearing on his life, as proven by how he found redemption from his sins and went on to have one of the most profound influences on American music that there has ever been, you will still find Walk The Line to be a masterpiece of the biographical genre. Some might compare it to last year's Ray, and I think there are some similiarities (the scene where Cash is busted for drug possession is a lot like what happens to Ray Charles in Ray), but there's really no comparing the two. They are two films about two men, each one as set apart from others as there is likely to ever be found. Don't go in expecting Ray. Expect something altogether different, but as brilliantly executed all the same.

Walk The Line is a true love story on so many levels, but especially between Johnny and June. Everything that my heart felt from watching the "Hurt" video, I felt was done justice by this movie. I really can't blame either Johnny or June for the errors in each of their lives that they had in the past. This is a movie about Johnny and June, and how they both came to move forward, toward forgiveness for each and then a life with each other.

If for no other reason, go see Walk The Line because it's an enormously entertaining movie. It has tenderness. It has tragedy. It has triumph. And it has some pretty darn funny scenes interspersed throughout: no other film ever made, I can almost certainly guarantee, will give you the image of Mother Maybelle Carter (Sandra Ellis Lafferty) confronting a drug dealer with a shotgun.

Finally, I guess one of the biggest reasons why Walk The Line impacted me so is that I got to share it with two of the people who figure among the greatest in my life: my wife, and my father. I'm especially proud that I got to watch Walk The Line with Dad. The last time we'd been able to catch a movie together was The Perfect Storm over five years ago. Admittedly, our tastes in film differ somewhat: he's never been able to understand why I love the Star Wars movies so much. And that's perfectly understandable. But ever since I first started hearing about Walk The Line I had good vibes that this would be a great movie that I could take my Dad to see, and that we could both enjoy it on the level of equals. I believed that my wife - whose profession is based in music - would enjoy this movie.

To director James Mangold, Phoenix and Witherspoon, and the Cash family for allowing this story to be told in this way, along with everyone else involved in making this movie: thank you. You delivered what I've already come to think of as being one of the most memorable experiences that I've ever had from going to see a movie. I felt that I'd come out feeling really proud about being able to share this with my wife and father, and you didn't let me down the least bit. Really appreciate it, folks. Hope with Walk The Line that you'll earn more Oscars than you've shelf-space to hold 'em on.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Walk The Line review coming soon

Watched it earlier this afternoon along with Lisa and Dad, who's just about as big a fan of Johnny Cash as they come. This one put me away bigtime. It's rare for me to have to take a step back and collect my thoughts on something, but Walk The Line did that to me. It's too late to finish a review that would do it justice: I'm going to sleep on the rest of it. Later on I'll talk about what worked so well here, something that disappointed me about how Cash's life was portrayed, and some other thoughts about this movie. But trust me: it's well worth seeing during its run now in the theaters. Will post a real review of it tomorrow.

Thanksgiving turkey 2005 and report on Marinade X

Here's the pics of the 15 lb. turkey I fried for this year's Thanksgiving, from before it was lowered into the oil and after...
There was no noticable wind last night like what plagued us later on Thursday, so I fried the 6 lb. turkey breast that I had injected with "Marinade X": the first real experimental seasoning that I've cooked up. I'm not quite ready to reveal what was put into this concoction because I want to "tweak" it some more. However, it yielded an unusually tender bird: much moreso than it ever has when I've used regular garlic butter marinade. The taste was terrific, but not quite as strong as I was hoping for, hence my desire to work with it some more. But everyone seemed to like it a lot still.

I might be doing at least two full-sized birds next month for Christmas. Sometime before then I'm hoping to track down a bigger pot: I'm using 30 quart now but a 40 quart would be niiiice. That way I can fry bigger turkeys and it'll be somewhat more safe to work with.

Okay, off to see Walk the Line now. Enjoy your turkey leftovers y'all :-)

Friday, November 25, 2005

What aren't "they" telling us?

A former Canadian minister of defense is warning of an "intergalactic war" between Earth and UFOs.

No need to worry. When the time comes we'll just send up Jeff Goldblum and his Apple notebook computer.

"Season's Beatings"

73-year old Josephine Hoffman is shown here getting trampled on by maddened shoppers at a south Florida shopping mall early today. There've been several reports since this morning of people getting knocked down and beaten up on "Black Friday"... or "Black and Blue Friday" from the looks of it. I used to really like going out the day after Thanksgiving, if for nothing else than to just watch the people start going about their Christmas shopping. For the past two years at least I've read a lot of stories like this one, and it's gotten so the day just doesn't have any more joy for me. It says a lot about how materialistic we've become when we make buying "things" more important than being considerate of other people.

Mister Miyagi screams "BONZAI!" for the last time: Pat Morita has passed away

This just reeks. I'm literally at a loss for the words I'm looking for to convey how low my heart feels right now. Being a child of the Eighties, Mister Miyagi was one of my heroes. One minute he was this cute little handyman trying to catch houseflies with chopsticks. The next he was this engine of rage karate-chopping hoodlums into pain and agony. "Wax on, wax off!" The guy became, I think it's safe to say he became a genuine archetype of wise master, right up there with Gandalf and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

But if Mister Miyagi became all those things, so much more so was the man who portrayed him. There was a time when Pat Morita was everywhere. I think at one point he was in just about as many commercials as Bill Cosby. Heck back in the day he was even a regular on Sanford and Son and Happy Days. Whatever he did, Morita always seemed nothing less than sincere about who he was, and it always went back to being that sweet little man with the humble voice and noble eyes. Who just as much as he could kick tail, he could make us think a little, and laugh a lot.

Darn it's hard writing about this.

I just found out a few minutes ago that Pat Morita has died. He was 73. He had as full a life as anyone could possibly have: going from detainee in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II, to restaurant owner and computer industry worker, to professional actor and finally beloved American icon. Here's the story from the Associated Press via Yahoo! My friend Chad just posted a really neat tribute to Morita over at his blog too. I imagine a lot of people are going to be stopping today to remember this man who figured so greatly in our pop culture's mind.

Rest in peace, sensei Morita. And bonzai!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

HBO may deny Rome a second season?!?

Ain't It Cool News is reporting that HBO - which apparently had previously greenlit a second season of Rome - may now be having second thoughts on any further installments of the hit show.

If HBO did this, they will have truly joined the ranks of the galactically stupid. Rome is one of the best shows on TV right now, maybe even one of the best ever attempted. The producers have taken already great history and turned it into a well-executed bloodthirsty gangster drama: like I said before, it's The Sopranos B.C. The show has only gotten better as it's progressed, the detail is opulent beyond belief, the action sequences are stupendous, and Titus Pullo is now officially one of the most serious bad-a$$es in television history (I'm still hearing "Thirteen!" in my head after the episode "The Spoils"). HBO had darned well better not cancel Rome!! But then, they had already cancelled Carnivale: another show that was one of the very few actually worth your valuable time watching. I'm still dying to see how THAT was going to all resolve itself. Now it looks as if we won't see the aftermath of Caesar's assassination play out. Well, what else can I say: if this is true, "Screw you HBO!"

Happy Thanksgiving! And an after-action report

First of all, hope you and yours are having a really terrific holiday today...
Oh yeah, Lisa was sent something that I think is just too darned hilarious not to make a mention of. Mash down here for a really wicked Flash movie that's just perfect for this day.

The main turkey we were using for Thanksgiving dinner today came out very beautiful. It not only looked terrific, it was by far the best one I've yet done. I left my camera at my parents' house though, so I can't upload the pictures of it just yet. Will pick it up tomorrow and post then.

The second bird, the smaller turkey breast that I juiced-up with Marinade X - my highly experimental concoction - couldn't be done today. We had a dilly of a time keeping the burner going in spite of the fierce winds we had today. It was nice today for the most part: unseasonably warm for this time of November. But the wind was a #&@%. Although we got the first bird done, when we came back after dinner to fry up the second it was just too windy to sustain a flame. We're going to try again tomorrow (and marinade another one with regular garlic butter).

Otherwise though, it was a pretty good Thanksgiving. We came home with plenty of leftovers, including turkey (yum!) and practically an entire German chocolate pie. Lot of good family getting together at my aunt and uncle's joint. Plenty of kids running around and this time there was some asking about when Lisa and I would be making our own contribution to that. Heh-heh... who knows, maybe sooner than anyone realizes... parse that as you will ;-)

Okay, hope y'all are doing well this Thanksgiving 2005. Now remember to get to bed early tonight: the stores open early tomorrow (during which I'm going to try to stock up on plenty of Star Wars action figures :-) Sees ya later!

"Marinade X"

The above syringe is my biggest turkey injector. It contains a substance that until a few hours ago had never existed in the history of mankind. I have no idea how this is going to work. It could make a turkey extremely delicious... or not. It's definitely not the usual marinade (for which I used Tony Chachere's brand of Creole style butter for the main Thanksgiving turkey). I'm somewhat reluctant to admit right now what exactly went into this strange brew, apart from being able to say that butter was one of the necessary ingredients. The test subject is a six-pound turkey breast, so if this screws up the damage won't spread to the main dinner table: a fifteen pound full bird has that honor. We'll see how well this experimental formula does when we take it out of the fryer later today. Pray I don't kill anyone or myself with the mysterious Marinade X.

TURKEY FRYING SAFETY: How to measure out your oil

Accidents involving turkey frying usually have one of the following three causes: leaving the fryer unattended (which should NEVER be done), trying to use the fryer indoors or beneath a shelter (often made of combustible material like wood, which is sorta like putting Drew Barrymore onboard the Hindenburg), or having an excess of oil in the pot that you are frying the bird in. And more often than not that last one happens because somebody didn't think twice about filling up the pot with as much oil as was readily available... without considering the displacement there would be after the bird was lowered in. Put simply: you don't need all that much oil to thoroughly (and safely) fry a bird in. Fortunately, there is a simple trick that you can do to accurately gauge how much peanut (or cottonseed, or in some cases vegetable) oil you'll actually need.

Before doing anything else with your turkey, while it's still wrapped-up in its plastic bag, put it in the bottom of your pot. Then start pouring cold water into the pot (I use a tea jug). Pour enough water in so that you can cover the top of the bird, plus maybe an extra inch more, but not much more (this is to accommodate for the base of the spit that you will have the turkey skewered onto). You should come several inches from the top of the pot. Then remove your turkey from the pot, and give the water a little bit of time to settle. At the water line, take a pencil and draw a dark-enough mark showing the depth of the water minus the bird. Then pour the water out. Here's some pics of me doing this earlier tonight...

You now have an accurate measure of how much oil you'll need to pour into the pot when it comes time to fry, that will allow for the extra mass of the bird when you add it to the cauldron.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thirty minutes into tonight's Lost...

It must be said: Ana Lucia is THE most trigger-happy character on television in the history of anything. What is this, like three or four times she's pulled a gun out on someone in less than a half-hour? Somebody knock this crazy woman out before she gets EVERYONE killed!

EDIT: It's now 9:52, a few minutes after we got to watch Ana Lucia put something like thirty seven bullet holes in some punk. Oh well... at least now we know something about why she's miffed at everything. Good episode.

Sound and fury: Choosing the music is part of the ritual

I'm going to be posting a lot about the turkey frying tomorrow this night and into the morning. Partly, it's to share any experience or bits of wisdom I've picked up along the way that has to do with this. Although I've been frying for three years, I spent three years before that just reading up on it, and trying to convince myself that I really could do something this crazy. And partly, it's because for me this really has become an exquisite form of art. Turkey frying is really the only thing that we here in America have that's comparable to the Japanese art of preparing fugu. Unless you consider that if you mess fugu up, you don't usually burn up everything around you in the process...

Three years into our marriage and, I think this has become the first real tradition of our own little family. Someday my own son might want to try this, and I'll be there, showing him how to clean the bird, how to inject it with marinade, and then how to prepare the fryer and drop it into the oil. Something like carving the Thanksgiving turkey, only much more unforgiving of mistakes. This is going to be a "coming of age" ritual, a thing that marks passage into manhood, sorta. I think of myself as a pretty good fryer, and someday I will pass it on to those that will follow. Something like how my Dad has passed along the art of making knives to me (although I'm NOWHERE near as good as Dad :-)

Anyway, this tradition has already developed into a certain ritual that must be followed. I always wear my long-sleeved denim shirt. Always have on a good pair of boots. I wear hat and sunglasses while doing this. And there is always some background music blaring from the speakers of my car's stereo system.

In 2002 it was the soundtrack for The Fellowship of the Ring. In 2003 and 2004 I used the soundtrack for The Return of the King. Tonight I decided that in keeping with the theme of flames and searing heat, and that this being 2005, I am going to fry my birds to the soundtrack from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. By the time it comes to "Battle of the Heroes" it should REALLY be coming along good, with those blasts of steam impregnated with the smell of marinade rising from the fryer.

Okay, off to watch Lost while the garlic butter sets in. More later.

And so, it begins: This year's round of turkey-frying accidents

Bird #1 just received the first dose of marinade: the traditional garlic butter. Pumped nearly three bottles of the sauce into that turkey. I'll be working throughout the night making this just right to go into the hot oil tomorrow morning. Later on comes the cajun rub and more marinade. Bird #2 is a turkey breast that I'm making the subject of a somewhat experimental marinade. I've brewed up a diabolical concoction that, the theory is anyway, will render a VERY delicious bird. If this goes well I'll try it on a bigger bird come Christmas.

(BTW, special thanks to my good buddy lowbridge for posting on Free Republic my article from last year's Thanksgiving. You a good dude lowie :-)

Now, if you follow some pretty simple precautions, turkey frying can be relatively safe. You just gott be careful throughout the whole process. You must practice, as "Mad-Eye" Moody liked to scream out in the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire novel, "CONSTANT VIGILANCE!" And fortunately most turkey frying goes off without a hitch. But then, every year, we get stories like this: from the Register-Guard...

Fryer Smokes Bird, New House
By Rebecca Nolan
The Register-Guard
Published: Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Construction workers using a deep-fryer to cook a turkey Tuesday for an early Thanksgiving celebration burned a house they had just finished building.

The feast is an annual tradition for the crew, which was working at the Cozy Homes development on Mallory Lane, off Coburg Road in Eugene.

Cement worker Henry Schmerber bought a new propane fryer for the occasion and set it up inside the garage of the vacant house. Workers took turns watching the kettle.

But the fryer's thermometer was broken, and the oil inside got too hot, the workers said. The kettle started smoking and the lid rattled, as though the peanut oil inside had reached a boil.

Schmerber ran inside the garage and turned off the gas, but it was too late.

"The lid popped off," he said. "There must have been oil on it, because it hit the burner and ignited it."

The hot oil burned through the rubber propane line. Flames spread through the garage and up the front of the house, into a second-story room.

"The flames were as tall as the house," Schmerber said.

The men fought the blaze with a fire extinguisher, but the foam had no effect.

Eugene District Fire Chief Paul Dammen said the fire caused about $75,000 in damage. In all, 17 firefighters helped put out the blaze. The house was unsold, and the loss was insured.

Charred wood, insulation and other materials lay in a pile on the driveway. The front of the light green house was scorched and a twisted ceiling fan was visible through a shattered upstairs window, its blades warped by the heat.

Like an increasing number of Americans, Schmerber and his co-workers like the taste of deep-fried turkey. The technique began in the southern states and has gained popularity over the years. Cooking time is shortened and the meat stays juicier, advocates say.

Use of the fryer units remains controversial.

State Fire Marshal Nancy Orr on Monday urged Oregonians to use the fryers outdoors only and to keep an eye on the unit at all times.

"It's dangerous to use them on wooden decks or in garages," she said in a written statement.

The National Fire Protection Association's Web site discourages consumers from using deep fryers. (comment from me: WIMPS!!!)

The group warns heating as much as five gallons of oil to 350 degrees or more poses a "significant danger."

"The use of turkey fryers by consumers can lead to devastating burns, other injuries and the destruction of property," the group says.

But even after the fire, the men on Mallory Lane were determined to have their bird. They bought a second fryer and planned to cook up their feast later Tuesday afternoon in the backyard of a house across the street.

"We're gonna burn another house down," Schmerber joked.

Somehow I have the urge to start chanting "The Roof" after reading this story :-P

EDIT: Y'see, this is why you wanna be real careful when you play around with one of these things...

From LP, to cassette, to CD... to USB flash drive?

The Barenaked Ladies are releasing their newest album, Barenaked on a Stick, on a 128 MB USB flash drive. The $30 drive includes 29 songs in MP3 format, photos, videos, and much more. The drive can play on PCs, Macs, and a lot of the newer audio equipment like some car stereos that have a USB port built-in.

For awhile now I've wondered what - if anything - might possibly supplant the CD as a medium for offline music purchases. I'm still not sold on buying my audio online: call me old-fashioned but I like having something tangible that I can hold in my hand for my money. It's way too early to see if this is really going to be a serious threat to CD, but this is still a pretty neat idea that the Barenaked Ladies have hit upon.

Book review: Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader

This is one I've been hankering for ever since news about it came out this past spring. Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno is the first Star Wars novel to come out that's set in the time immediately following the events of Revenge of the Sith. It came out yesterday and I bought a copy after leaving work. It was a gripping enough read that I just finished it after plowing through it all this past evening. In Dark Lord, Luceno chronicles the first few weeks in the life of Darth Vader after he was "resurrected" on the slab in Darth Sidious' medical facility. And there's a certain grim humor that Luceno works into the story here, as we learn just how pathetic Vader really is, despite the fearsome countenance of his famous armor. Turns out that the medical droids did a p*ss-poor job in attaching the prosthetic limbs to the former Anakin Skywalker. His chest unit isn't working properly, the fabric of the outfit either catches on the cyborg parts or it bunches up where it's not supposed to, and the entire thing - especially when Vader walks or is kneeling in the presence of the Emperor - is just too uncomfortable to wear or move around in. Throughout the book Vader spends a lot of time not only acclimating himself to his new condition, but dealing with the vestiges of his former life that still linger. We see how a lot of the characters are faring post-Sith, such as Bail Organa: walking a tightrope between feigning loyalty to the Emperor and furthering the liberty of his people... while also hiding his adopted infant daughter and a certain pair of droids from the dark lord's attention. A ton of detail is given in this book about the power structure of the Empire, including the logistical demands that come with creating a military - virtually overnight - that is strong enough to keep subdued an entire galaxy. There is a subplot in this novel involving several Jedi who have somehow managed to escape the calamity of Order 66, and this is handled quite nicely and - somewhat like Forrest Gump - becomes the portal through which we witness what's happened to the more notable characters of the saga. But otherwise this novel is pure Empire, pure Sith... and pure Vader. I've been a huge fan of Luceno's work for some time now (I even wound up sitting right beside him during a panel discussion at Star Wars Celebration II a few years ago... why oh why didn't I ask for his autograph then?!), he probably ranks with Timothy Zahn as my favorite writer of Star Wars fiction, and in Dark Lord he definitely does not disappoint. Highly recommended whomping good read for any Star Wars fan.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Shattered record

We have some special software here at school used to teach and test typing skills. Because I'm going to be using this with a few of my students, I thought it would be a good idea to become familiar with it. So a little while ago I gave myself a typing test.

The last time I measured myself like this, it was maybe five or six years ago. Back then I was typing an average of 120 words per minute... on a good day.

Today my typing speed clocked in at a whopping 153 gross words per minute with 100% accuracy.

Given how I was nothing but thumbs all over the keyboard when I first took typing in high school years ago, I'm rather pleased to see how far I've come :-)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Last soldier of the "Christmas Truce" has passed away

Alfred Anderson, the last known British soldier who partook in the "Christmas Truce" of World War I, has died at the age of 109.

On December 25, 1914, an unofficial truce broke out between the British and German soldiers along the western front. The two warring armies laid down their arms and met each other in the no man's land that separated the opposing trenches. They drank together, gave each other cigarettes, traded tunic buttons, sang Christmas carols together, even played soccer. In some places along the front the truce lasted for a few days. And then the commanders on both sides ordered their men to start fighting each other again. But for a little while, there really had been peace on Earth and goodwill toward men...

Alfred Anderson may very well have been the last man who could remember what happened that day 91 years ago. His death leaves only ten British veterans of the Great War still with us. Of the more than two million American doughboys who fought in the conflict, there are roughly 50 left and possibly even less than that. Their numbers dwindle with each passing year.

More than 16 million men and women served in the United States armed forces by the time World War II drew to a close. Of those, only a quarter or so are with us still. It is estimated that we are losing our World War II veterans now at the rate of about one thousand per day.

I read a few days ago that of the 705 survivors of the Titanic, only three of them - all women - are still alive.

It is estimated that there are approximately one million survivors of the Holocaust in the world today. Many of them live in Israel and the United States.

I know that I must be realistic, and acknowledge that none of us are meant to linger forever. And I do have faith that there is something much more that is awaiting us beyond this realm of crude matter... something wonderful, even. But as a historian it does sadden me terribly, knowing that one by one those who have connected us to some of the most significant events of the twentieth century are being taken from this world and into eternity.

Alfred Anderson, wherever you are: you've earned a good rest. Welcome home, soldier.

EDIT: I found a GREAT website that has full-color photographs from World War I! Check out www.greatwar.nl for some really vivid images of the war.

Top geek novels of all time

The top 20 geek novels have been voted on by readers of the Guardian. I will admit to having read nine of these novels, including eight in the top ten. Some of these I've never heard of before. Others I've wanted to read at some point but haven't had a chance to do so yet. A few of these - like Nineteen Eighty-Four and Dune - I credit with playing a big part in my personal development. Am kinda surprised to see Watchmen here as it's not strictly a novel per se, but it easily ranks as one of the greatest works of English literature in the past 25 years, so it's got that going for it. Anyhoo, here's the complete list...
1. The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- Douglas Adams
2. Nineteen Eighty-Four -- George Orwell
3. Brave New World -- Aldous Huxley
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- Philip Dick
5. Neuromancer -- William Gibson
6. Dune -- Frank Herbert
7. I, Robot -- Isaac Asimov
8. Foundation -- Isaac Asimov
9. The Colour of Magic -- Terry Pratchett
10. Microserfs -- Douglas Coupland
11. Snow Crash -- Neal Stephenson
12. Watchmen -- Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
13. Cryptonomicon -- Neal Stephenson
14. Consider Phlebas -- Iain M Banks
15. Stranger in a Strange Land -- Robert Heinlein
16. The Man in the High Castle -- Philip K Dick
17. American Gods -- Neil Gaiman
18. The Diamond Age -- Neal Stephenson
19. The Illuminatus! Trilogy -- Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson
20. Trouble with Lichen - John Wyndham

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Great Caesar's ghost! Tonight's Rome rocks!!

Well the credits are rolling right now on the final episode for this first season of Rome on HBO. I must say this show became far more wildly entertaining than I was first expecting it to be: it's like The Sopranos B.C. Can't say that tonight's events weren't totally unexpected. I mean, we know how history proceeded after Julius Caesar became emperor. Anyone who ever read Shakespeare's play in high school will remember how this unfolds. Yet the show's producers (which includes John Milius of Conan the Barbarian fame) still made this something that felt like you didn't see coming. Guess it had to do with how brutal they made the actual thing go down. Anyone who's been following the tale of Lucius Vorenus is going to get hit with a whammy too. The final scene showing Titus Pullo is a little bit of a surprise, given what happened a couple episodes back (remember that guy he gave the severe headache too?). Anyway, tonight's Rome really packs a whallop. Be sure and catch it when it encores on HBO during this coming week.

"Who is Number One?"

From the "You have got to be kidding me!" files: a remake of the 1960s TV series The Prisoner is being worked on by Sky One over in Great Britain. It doesn't sound as if it'll be much like the original show though as "liberties" are being taken. My opinion: this one won't fly. The original The Prisoner is by far THE most bizarre thing ever done for television. If you want some seriously nutty watching just check out its final episode. And what the heck was that "Rover" thing anyway? I could see a The Prisoner movie being done in the tone of the original though, maybe starring George Clooney and featuring special effects by ILM. But without the strangeness quotient anything new for television will get stale fast.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Bush betrays Chinese Christians: Is state-sponsored church a real "church" at all?

CNN is reporting that President Bush attended services at a government-sanctioned church in China today. Which is odd because Bush does not attend services at any church while he is home in America, but I digress from the point of this discussion...

There are two kinds of churches in communist China. There are the "approved" state-allowed churches, and the only real reason that the Chinese government has lately tolerated any Christian churches at all is that it wants to improve its image in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There are three "movements" making up the state-run churches: the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the China Christian Council, and what passes as Catholicism in China. And guess what: all of them owe their first loyalty to the state, which has absolute control over the congregations. The government taps the pastors (it can even install priests in the Catholic churches without Vatican say-so), decides what will and what will not be preached, keeps everything pertaining to them on a tight leash. If you want to worship in a church in China without fear of reprisal, you have no choice but to enter the doors of a state-sponsored congregation.

And then there are the underground "house churches". Which from my perspective are the ONLY real Christian churches that exist in China. This is the true persecuted church in this world. Worshipping in a house church is an offense that can get you arrested, imprisoned, and sometimes even executed. Just a few days ago several Chinese "house Christians" were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for running an underground church and distributing illegal copies of the Bible.

The underground church in China is one of the most brutalized and hunted-down religious movements in world history. And yet the adversity is causing growth: the house churches are widely considered to be the most active and thriving churches in China, in spite of the threats facing it. Nonetheless, most Christians in China still face dire consequences if they are ever caught practicing their faith without license from the government.

By attending a state-run church, Bush has effectively thumbed his nose at those Christians who live by faith in God alone, instead of kow-towing to what other men would have them do. He even dared suggest that the state churches are smiled upon by God when he said at the service that "The spirit of the Lord is very strong inside your church."

Christians are supposed to be baptised in the name of God, and not in the name of any government. The moment they seek counsel from worldly authority as to how they are to approach God, they cease being of God and fall back under the spiritual jurisdiction of this carnal realm.

If President Bush wanted to act like a real leader - and especially a Christian leader - he would have rebuffed the state-sanctioned churches entirely. He would have readily understood that the church can not be an institution that acts with the approval of temporal government.But once again, the "leaders" of this country have shown a willingness to demonstrate that they seek to honor the god of this world, instead of honoring the God of Heaven. It is more important to Bush and too many other politicians that the Chinese government be placated for the vast market it controls, instead of made to answer for its harsh treatment of those who merely wish to serve and worship God as their consciences - and not their own politicians - would so lead them to do.

And some people wonder why it is that I am so disgusted with so many professing "Christians" in America.

Scientology gets destroyed on South Park this week

This was getting so much word of mouth that I had to track down a copy and see it for myself. Dear Lord this week's episode is hilarious... and I hardly ever watch South Park at all. Titled "Trapped in the Closet", Matt Stone and Trey Parker showed they got brass ones for taking on the most ridiculous "religion" of all: Scientology. Stan spends over two hundred dollars getting an "e-meter" reading from the church and pegs the thing as an OT-9, leading the church to believe that Stan is the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard. Funniest moments: when Scientology's "secret doctrine" is shared with Stan, we watch a depiction while "THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE" is overlayed atop it. The thing is this really IS what Scientologists believe! If you've ever read Xenu.net or know anything about "Scamintology" at all you'll understand why this episode is such a big deal. There's no way the Church of Scientology will sue Parker and Stone for doing this, and that's partly why I love this episode so much. Scientomogy has the episode in RealVideo format if you'd like to take a gander.

Saturdays just won't be the same again: Kyle Williams signs off from WorldNetDaily

I don't know WHAT I'm going to do first-thing every Saturday morning from this point on. It had become an ingrained ritual that before anything else I would turn on the computer, point the browser to WorldNetDaily and read the newest column from Kyle Williams. I need to say this too: Kyle is not just an amazing writer, he is a truly wonderful young man that I have been immensely humbled to have the honor of having as a true friend. For four years he has been a wunderkind of the first order to behold. Today marks his final column at WorldNetDaily before taking his unique intellect into pursuit of other projects. He'll still have his blog though, which he better update often 'cuz some of us need our "fix" :-)

Kyle, good luck and God speed. And thanks for the lil' nod at the end of your column today: it seriously made my weekend!! :-)

Friday, November 18, 2005

She won't last two months

Rugged individualist extraordinaire Claire Wolfe is cutting herself off from the Internet for one year. I'm thinking of doing this for one week, but for a year?! Here's hoping that she comes to her senses: we need her. But if she comes out better for doing this, then nothing but best wishes for her.

Superman Returns teaser has been online since last night...

...and in the 24 hours since it debuted I've watched this, probably twenty times at least. This is the time of the year when the "teasers" for the next summer's blockbusters start appearing, giving us a taste of what's to come. Last year I especially remember the one for Revenge of the Sith and that downright disturbing one for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Well, after seeing the one for Superman Returns, I don't think I've been this jazzed about an upcoming summer release since the one for Spider-Man 2 a couple years back.
What makes this so beautiful to me is how it uses both John Williams' classic Superman: The Movie music and some of Marlon Brando's dialogue from the original, alongside some images from the new movie. It's about as overwhelming a teaser as you're likely to behold in every way. Head over to the official Superman Returns website and check it out in full glorious Quicktime!

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire review

They just keep getting better and better. And darker and darker.

I hooked up with Darth Larry, his wife and several of their compatriots (a lot of 'em from UNC-Greensboro's music program) last night about 11 over at the Carousel Grande in Greensboro. Lots of youngish (i.e. 10-14 year olds) people. Plenty of folks in costume, including one girl who came as Moaning Myrtle, complete with toilet bowl lid around her neck: wish I'd brought my camera to get a pic of that. Otherwise it was mostly generic Hogwarts students/witch getups. Theater manager came out about five minutes before the show and asked everyone not to take pictures while the movie was playing. At 12:01 a.m. on the dot the promo slides ended and the trailers began.

The only two that really come to mind were the teasers for Happy Feet out a year from now (it looks like March of the Penguins on steroids) and Hoodwinked, which looks funny enough that I might have to check this out next month. Carousel Grande DID NOT HAVE the teaser for Superman Returns playing in front of Goblet of Fire as it was supposed to, which is a real darn shame because, I caught this trailer just before leaving for the theater and it is epic. Woulda been great to see it on the big screen :-(

And then came the movie...

Folks, it must be said early on that there is considerably much detail in this movie that went missing from the book. The opening chapters with the Weasleys arriving at the Dursley home to pick up Harry are gone, which I hated 'cuz that would have been a really funny thing to have seen on film. Prominently missing also is the entire "House Elf Liberation Front" subplot, which would have given Hermione much more to do in terms of her character. So too is the resolution of the entire Rita Skeeter thread. Maybe a few other things like that. Otherwise, if you can overlook those things, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is one heckuva good ride.

It basically does start out with the book's very first chapter, then jumps to the Quidditch World Cup, which was VERY well done: easily the most special-effects filled sequence in any Harry Potter movie to date. I'm wanting to see this movie again just to try and take in EVERYTHING that happens in these scenes. One thing I happened to notice that elicited a smile: when Minister Fudge is opening the ceremonies, take a look at Barty Crouch sitting behind him and to the right-hand side of the screen. The seat next to Crouch is empty. That detail isn't delved into anymore in the movie, but readers of the book will understand the significance of it.

Right after the World Cup final comes the Death Eaters attack. It's as scary as you might imagine it, but I'm making note of it because it's here that I first took notice of Patrick Doyle's score. The music that plays during the attack is malevolent and sinister... part of me wants to say it sounds positively Lovecraftian. This is just the first of many great pieces that are in this movie, including the later themes for Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, the music for the Triwizard events, and especially what is used for the Yule Ball. Doyle had a mighty baton to pick up after the work John Williams did for the previous three entries, but he really came through here. The Yule Ball music, that alone is going to drive me to purchase the soundtrack (assuming it has the piece by the Weird Sisters on it).

One of the real strengths of this movie is that all the characters, without any notable exception, are almost exactly as they were portrayed in the books, including the new ones. Whatever you envision as you read Goblet of Fire, that's how they will likely appear to you here. The one everyone is going to be talking about is Brendan Gleeson's portrayal of Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody, which was DEAD-on from the original novel, except I always envisioned him looking even more torn-up/brutalized. Barty Crouch Sr. is precisely how I saw him in the book: right down to the icy stare he gives as he disowns his only son and sentences him to Azkaban. And speaking of Barty Crouch Jr., David Tennant does a wicked job bringing him to life: he's sort of like the Charles Manson Family member of the Voldemort crew. This is really going to be Tennant's season to shine: he takes on the role of the Doctor full-time during next month's Doctor Who Christmas special, and I'm seriously looking forward to what he does with the character.

Richard Harris was a great Dumbledore in the first two movies. And Michael Gambdon did a pretty good job taking over after Harris died. But here in Goblet of Fire, Gambdon comes into his own completely. He is Dumbledore, Lord willing now and forever, and he brings an incredible combination of both tenderness and ferocity to the role.

This is the best Hagrid that Robbie Coltrane has been since the original. It's an absolute delight watching the romance blossom between him and Madame Maxim.

Fans of Neville Longbottom: this is your movie. He has come a long way as a character, and a deeper one than most might have suspected at that. The scene in Moody's class, where we see Neville recoil in anguish at seeing use of the Cruciatus curse: we're never told why it is in the movie that he reacts this way, though if you've read the books you know better. Terrific, subtle set-up for future movies, that is. But most of all I really had to smile at how of all the leading young male student characters, it was Neville who had the best time at the Yule Ball.

Speaking of THAT, the Yule Ball might be my favorite scene in the whole movie. It's just fun to watch. Except for poor Harry and Ron, who look so wasted you'd think they're smashed on booze. Ron looks particularly horrible: that tuxedo looks like it was stolen from Liberace's corpse. In stark contrast Emma Watson looks positively STUNNING as Herminone in this scene. She has really become a very lovely young lady.

Viktor Krum and Fleur Delacour... apart from Krum's appearance at the World Cup and their competing in the tournament, there wasn't nearly enough time given to these two. Or to their schools for that matter. I was looking forward to seeing more from the other two wizarding schools out there. But it's a long book and there's only time to show so much. Clémence Poésy is really sweet as Fleur in the scenes she's in though, and Stanislav Ianevski's Viktor Krum... well, he just rules, man. Of all the new characters, he's the one I would have loved to have seen more of, especially at the World Cup. There's a REASON Krum is so well renowned in the books, and we didn't really see why in the movie. But based on Ianevski's portrayal of him, I'll trust that it's there.

Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. If he had more screen time he would have out-uglied Emperor Palpatine as the year's most evil villainous creep. We see Voldemort in two forms: "Baby Voldemort" before Wormtail throws him in the reviving cauldron, and then "Mega-Gollum" full-size Voldemort. I can now finally believe in Voldemort as being the supreme bad guy of this story. We didn't see enough of him in Sorceror's Stone and that wasn't really the full-bore Voldemort we caught in Chamber of Secrets. Like so many other characters in this chapter, Voldemort has come into his own, and Fiennes brings every ounce of his ability at playing pure evil to the role. Can't wait to see what he does with the character in the Order of the Phoenix movie.

As for Harry, Ron and Hermione, the trio that this story has revolved around: they are maturing quite nicely if aging a little too quickly. Harry is maturing especially. Daniel Radcliffe is letting Harry become more and more edgy, by the end of the movie he's definitely on the path toward full-tilt grim that we know he's embarked upon by the end of Order of the Phoenix. It is going to be excruciatingly painful to watch what he does when Half-Blood Prince comes around. I'm almost dreading it, knowing the storm of you-know-what that he's yet to face.

Sirius Black is given one brief scene. In a fireplace. And that's it. I wanted to see seriously more Sirius this go-round. Especially after knowing what happens to him in the next chapter. I wanted to see more of Viktor Karkaroff and Severus Snape. Come to think of it, apart from maybe two scenes Snape has hardly anything to do in this movie. Oh well, Alan Rickman's time is coming soon enough...

The effects work in Goblet of Fire are sensational. Maybe even more beautiful than those used in Revenge of the Sith. The arrival of the two schools' contingents is exactly how I thought it would look like, and the tournaments trials - especially the dragons and the mer-people - were pure eye candy.

Geez, what else is there to say about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire?

How about that it's dark. Not as overwhelming as Revenge of the Sith was, but there is real tragedy that comes into the story here. We see a really wonderful character introduced, Cedric Diggory, and he's made out to be every bit the nice, upstanding young man. The kind of young man that any father would wish his son to grow into. And he gets taken away without any damned reason why. Folks, I gotta tell you: the movie made Diggory's death hurt more than how it was done in the book. And that's saying a lot. There's a horrible sense of foreboding by the end of the movie, but a kind of hopefulness as well. I'd say that Goblet of Fire is The Empire Strikes Back of the Harry Potter saga: it ends on something of a cliffhanger in that the bad guys have apparently won this round, but it's not a horribly *lingering* cliffhanger. There's still hope to be found yet. It is here that I thought Dumbledore had his best scene in the movie. And it ends on good terms - or at least as good as you can expect things after the tragedy - for Harry, Ron and Hermione.

What else can I say about this?

Well, as I said before, it doesn't have EVERYTHING in the book that I'd wished it had. But given the constraints of time, the movie is still a very elegant dance to behold. Definitely worth catching at least twice in the theaters. I'll give it 9 stars out of 10, if I were ranking it on that kind of scale. And I'm absolutely looking forward to watching it again.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Goblet of Fire midnight showing tonight

I'll be catching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at midnight tonight along with Darth Larry (who word on the street has it is playing a mean cello in a production of H.M.S. Pinafore today at UNC-Greensboro). He called about it the other day and I said "sure" way before it registered with my brain how long this movie is going to be. At more than three hours this'll put us WAY into the morrow's dawn, definitely territory I haven't been in since the last Lord of the Rings movie. We'll see if my system can still hold up after teaching all day today, then something else that won't have me back home 'til 8, then the flick and then back teaching again tomorrow and possibly seeing Goblet of Fire again tomorrow night with my wife. Nice to know that even with added responsibilities I'm still up for crazy stunts. We're also hoping to catch Walk the Line this weekend, so expect maybe a double-barreled movie review coming up in a few days.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Clips from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe soundtrack hit online

SoundtrackNet has clips from each track from the soundtrack of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe that you can listen to. Know this though: listening to these demands that you have absolutely the latest version of Quicktime on your system. I installed a new version just a few weeks ago, and I still had to upgrade it tonight to get this to work. You also may need to refresh the pop-up window that has the clip. And even then, it was extremely slow to begin playing. But from what we heard so far (clips from "The Blitz, 1940" and "The Wardrobe") it sounds pretty good. Not as resonating as the music from the 1979 animated version though, which I'm especially thinking of the score that plays during the stag hunt: undoubtedly one of the most hauntingly beautiful compositions I've ever heard in my entire life. Believe me, it would be well worth buying the DVD of this just to listen to that one track. But this is just a tiny portion of the entire score from the 2005 version: I'll reserve full judgement until I can listen to it all, accompanying what transpires onscreen. In the meantime, whet your appetite on these snippets!

We watched The Jerk tonight on AMC

Lisa had never seen this before until tonight. I'd last caught it maybe ten years ago and had forgotten how funny this is. It's sort of more uplifting now for some reason. Lisa likes to tell me that I'll probably look like Steve Martin in another ten years or so: that's an encouraging thought I guess :-) Anyhoo, pretty good comedy in case you've never caught it before.

Getting geared up to start teachin' again

Had a brief orientation this morning at the place that I'm going to be teaching at. Oh yeah, WHAT will I be teaching? Much like my last educatin' gig: teaching computer and Internet skills, but also things like basic keyboarding. Anyway, this place I'm going to be at is really great: I'm gonna be working alongside a lot of neat people, and one thing that I learned today that abounds at this place is a strong sense of humor. Also was delighted to learn that there's several other people who went to Elon there, including one who was there right when I was. Will be reporting on how this all goes down as the weeks and months (and years?) progress :-)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Did the original Christians worship the military?

Found a compelling piece by Laurence M. Vance at the LewRockwell.com site. Titled "The Early Christian Attitude to War", it's a look at how Christian believers toward the beginning of the church viewed military and political power. And, it's a pretty damning case against modern "Christian" virtues like worshipping our armed might or status in the world. Vance begins thusly...
Were the early Christians warmongers like too many Christians are today? Did they idolize the Caesars like some Christians idolize President Bush? Did they make signs that said "the emperor" similar to the ones we see on cars today that refer to Bush as "the president"? Did they make apologies for the Roman Empire like some Christian apologists make for the U.S. Empire? Did they venerate the institution of the military like many Christians do today?

C. John Cadoux would say no.

Mash down here for plenty more.

Remember: These guys are President Bush's very bestest friends

A teacher in Saudi Arabia will spend 40 months in prison and receive 750 lashes by public flogging... for talking about the Bible and saying good things about the Jewish people.

Lest we forget how close "Christian" President Bush is to those who rule Saudi Arabia...


Click here. No questions, just do as I say. Props to Phillip Arthur for finding this.

The funniest graphic I've ever made

So last night I was talking to a friend on the phone about some things, and one thing was leading to another, a couple of crazy connections going on across the ol' synapses... and one of the funniest ideas I've ever thought of popped into my head.

I've been working on it for most of the night. This was just one of those things that once the notion of it possesses you, you're on fire for it. This was something like Forcery was, but it's a heckuva lot easier working with Photoshop than it is to make a film. So most of the past several hours I've spent hunched over the keyboard, scouring the 'net for certain visual elements (which were surprisingly hard to find, but the perfect one did turn up) and a new font or two, to match up with the ones used in the original. And apart from some very minor tweaking, I think I achieved the final form of the thing a short while ago. And it's really hilarious.

"So where is this thing?" Well, that's the bad news: I can't show it right now. Even though I'm dying to share this with the world. If I posted this graphic now it would - not "might" but "would" - cause a helluva lot of confusion that I would be scrambling to clarify. There would be wild rumors flying all over the place because of it. And it would just totally ruin the moment that this is really meant for.

So for the time being I'm going to sit on it. I've passed it along to a VERY few friends, just to see what their reaction is (so they'll tell me if this is going too far, but I think I'm pretty safe :-) But otherwise this is going to stay confined to my hard drive. I'm going to say that probably this time next year, or maybe a bit before then, is when the season will be ripe to share this with everyone. Gotta get a few other things lined up in the meantime. If/when I publish this I'll make a permanent link to it in the Recent Hightlights section on the right so nobody will miss it.

Trust me, I ain't joshin' y'all: this will probably make you honk with laughter. Find out what it is... sometime in 2006!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Disney has gone to the dogs

Was doing a random traipse through the blogs and found this one-sheet posted at The Hollywood Blacklist:
Dear Lord, they just can't leave well enough alone, can they? Earlier this year I reported that a remake of Tron is in the pipeline at Disney. Now they've gone and done this. What next: a redo of Song of the South starring 50 Cent?

BTW, the original The Shaggy Dog is a pretty funny movie. I saw it years ago, and not long afterward I happened to catch its sequel The Shaggy D.A.. The original stars Fred MacMurray, who played the scoutmaster in that movie Follow Me, Boys! that I wrote about awhile back. Good, classic Disney fare that doesn't need any mangling by Michael Eisner.

Hollywood Blacklist is also reporting that the trailer for The DaVinci Code is going to be attached to Peter Jackson's King Kong next month. That'll probably be the closest I ever get to anything relating to The DaVinci Code. For my thoughts on that - and some info on a MUCH more intriguing story regarding that kind of stuff - read this post from this past January.

Bill Gates gets DOOMed

What you are about to see has never before been witnessed by the general public. Until now.

Windows 95 had been out for barely two months when Microsoft held their Judgement Day event on October 30th, 1995. Hosted on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, it was a massive showcase of Windows 95 as a gaming platform, and an opportunity for third-party game developers to hawk the products they would soon be rolling out. Microsoft's garage and cafeteria were converted into a "haunted mansion", with each attendee given their own section to decorate. It sounds like it was a pretty wild time...

...Among the attendees were LucasArts, Activsion, and of course, iD Software. Outside, 12 massive guillotines were set around the exits. Activision created a small jungle section to promote the new Pitfall for Sega Genesis. A company called Zombie created a big metal sphere that shot out blue electricity. iD, however no to be outdone (much to Microsoft's dismay) hired the shock-rock band G.W.A.R. to create their set. It was an eight foot tall vagina with dildo teeth. Inside, two members of G.W.A.R. dressed in fur and raw meat attacked passerby's with rubber penises.
Alex St. John - one of the creators of Microsoft's DirectX - had something that would upstage even the boys at iD. Here's what went down, as described in the book Masters of Doom:
As the lights fell, a video screen lowered above the stage; It was time for the main event. The crowd cheered as the Doom's familiar corridors began to roll. But it was not the Doom soldier chasing the demons, it was... Bill Gates! Microsoft's fearless leader was superimposed running inside the game in a long black trench coat and brandishing a shotgun. Gates stopped running and addressed the crowd about Windows 95 as a gaming platform: A platform that could deliver cutting-edge multimedia experiences like Doom. But no sooner that he begun that an Imp monster from the game jumped out, through voice over, asked Gates for an autograph [sic]. Gates responded by raising his shotgun and blowing the beast to gory chunks. 'Don't interrupt me while I'm speaking', he said, then finished his speech. At the end, the screen went black with blood, only to be replaced with the familiar Microsoft phrase 'Who do you want to execute today?'.
Until this past week, NO ONE outside of Microsoft and those who attended Judgement Day had ever seen this video. But a few days ago the guys at Reel Splatter got in touch with Alex St. John, asking if it would be possible to watch this video of Bill Gates running around inside Doom... and St. John sent it to them! Click here to watch Bill Gates in a trenchcoat blast away a Former Human with his boomstick!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

About that Star Wars bonus DVD...

Chad Austin is asking about something that so far I don't think anyone else has hit on...
Hey Chris, I was watching "The Story of Star Wars" Bonus DVD that came with the Revenge of the Sith DVD from Wal-Mart and I was thinking....how could C-3PO narrate the story of Anakin Skywalker if he had his memory wiped at the end of Episode III?!?
Chad's right. If anyone should be telling this story, it's Artoo, not that blabbermouth protocol droid. Guess that memory wipe didn't take too well huh?

Friday, November 11, 2005

All six Star Wars movies... simultaneously

Shades of William S. Burroughs: a Star Wars fan named WeirdHat is watching all six movies at the same time. Interesting experiment in media psychology, to be sure. This guy is picking out some interesting patterns in the chaos that is the saga. Thanks to Kyle Williams for spotting this one.

Dear President Bush: you're here to HONOR the fallen, not keep them coming

Bush took the occassion of Veterans Day to attack critics of his war in Iraq.

I know that there are some people who are against this war strictly because its driving proponent happens to be of another political party, but those are too few and far between to justify attacking EVERYONE who is against this conflict. Some of us are against it because it has no clearly defined end-goal, because from the very beginning it has been based on dubious - and even non-existing - rationales, and simply because it has resulted in the MEANINGLESS deaths of more than two thousand American lives and still counting. Those precious men and women went off and died in another land and their sacrifice ultimately stood for NOTHING. They didn't die "protecting our liberty".

They died because a damaged little coward of a man - who has spent his life too scared to do any fighting on his own - decided that his own selfish ambitions weighed greater in the scales than did the greater good of the country that he swore an oath to serve.

He never had a real reason to instigate this war then, and he has no reason to continue it now. Instead he exploits what is supposed to be a solemn moment of reflection to make a political attack.

I don't know about you, but I have a lot of veterans in my family. Some of them have served in most of the conflicts of the past sixty years of American history. One fought at Iwo Jima. Two were in Korea. Serving this country is something that has a long history among my kin. And I'm mad as hell that the Coward-In-Chief would abuse a day consecrated to them for his own selfish reasons.

But then, this is just part of the pattern that's been his entire life, isn't it?

All of you who have supported him: I will be laughing at you ten years from now, when you'll be too ashamed to admit that you ever stood behind George W. Bush.

Pat Robertson is at it again

This time he's telling a town in Pennsylvania that it risks disaster because of how some election went there on Tuesday.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: Pat Robertson is a false prophet. He's not really much of a Christian at all. In the old days he would have been dragged outside of his headquarters in Virginia Beach and STONED to DEATH. Hey, it's how they treated false prophets in the Old Testament. You had to be right 100% of the time when speaking in the name of God. Pat has been wrong like 400% of the time. Heck, that's enough to almost have to "roll back" the period of grace that we are supposed to be in. If it weren't for that, Robertson would have been dead meat a long time ago.

But if you're the kind of person who can't get enough of this man's foolishness, click on the above link for more.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

"We are holding our own": Thirty years later, Edmund Fitzgerald still haunts

Sometime today the Rev. Richard Ingalls will have arrived at Mariner's Church, the Detroit congregation that he has faithfully served since 1965. And within the stone walls of the edifice, Rev. Ingalls will have tolled the church bells, letting the sound echo across the city. It is a ritual that Ingalls has done each November 10th for the past thirty years, ever since that first dawn in 1975 when Ingalls' moment of grief was forevermore put into the annals of American folklore...

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
At the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed 'til it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald
It was thirty years ago tonight that the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald - one of the largest and by far the most well-known of the bulk iron-ore freighters plying the Great Lakes, sank in a fierce November gale, taking with it the lives of all 29 crewmen aboard. It has since become one of the most famous shipwrecks in American history.

In 1957 the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin signed a contract with Great Lakes Engineering to build what was meant to be the first "maximum sized" Laker in existence. Hull 301's keel was laid that August, and a little over a year later the vessel was launched and delivered to her new owners. The ship was named after Edmund Fitzgerald, one of the CEOs of Northwestern Mutual, with his wife having the honors of christening the massive craft.

"The Pride of the American Flag", she was called, as well as "the Queen of the Great Lakes". At 729 feet long and 75 feet wide, the Edmund Fitzgerald held the title of largest ship on the lakes throughout most of her life. She had the capacity to carry more than 26,000 tons of iron pellets from mining operations on the western end of Lake Superior to the steel mills of Detroit, Toledo, and other ports in the east. Early in her career she broke cargo records, including that of carrying over a million tons of ore through the Soo Locks that separate upper Michigan from Ontario.

But as much as she owed it to her girth, the Edmund Fitzgerald became a fixture in the lives of those who lived along the lakes because of the antics of her crew also, especially those of longtime captain Peter Pulcer, who was ever eager to entertain those on shore. Good luck came when she steamed past some town or village on the shoreline: children, college students, steel-mill workers and homemakers ran onto beaches from Superior to Erie to wave at the ship. It was a part of life.

As the years progressed, the Fitzgerald garnered a storied history. Its crew was widely known to be a colorful, jovial lot, full of life and love for the lakefolk, and to serve on her was deemed a great honor around the Great Lakes. She was, by every account, the most beloved vessel sailing on the Great Lakes, and widely considered to be one of the most elegant ever put to water.

The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
when the skies of November turn gloomy.
On November 9th, 1975, the Edmund Fitzgerald left Superior, Wisconsin, on the westernmost side of Lake Superior. In her hold was over 26 thousand tons of iron ore, bound for Detroit and the steel mills, in was to have been a straightforward route across the lake and into Huron. She had a crew of 29 and at her helm was Ernest McSorley, every bit the "good captain well-seasoned", with 44 years of piloting the lakes under his belt in a respected career.
And later that night when the ship's bell rang,
could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?
There are few things, it is said, that are more fierce than a Great Lakes storm in November, such as the one of November 10th, 1975. A massive low-pressure cold front churned across the plains and headed north toward the lakes. On the 9th the Coast Guard issued a gale-force warning to all ships on Superior. Captain McSorley radioed the Coast Guard and the captain of another ship, the Arthur M. Anderson. Both the Fitzgerald and the Anderson headed further north, closer to Canada and away from the terrific waves that would be produced in open water.
The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
and a wave broke over the railing.
And ev'ry man knew, as the captain did too
'twas the witch of November come stealin'.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
when the Gales of November came slashin'.
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
in the face of a hurricane west wind.

Early on the 10th the front arrived over Superior. The ship weathered a battering morning, but both the Fitzgerald and the Anderson were considered safe: the winds had thus far come from the northeast, affording the ships the buffering of nearby land.

But that changed as afternoon progressed, when the winds shifted to the northwest, robbing the ships of their protection. The Anderson later reported that the winds reached 43 knots, with 16 foot waves crashing against the hulls. When the Fitzgerald radioed in, it was listing to one side, had suffered vent damage and the loss of a rail. Later the ship lost both radar arrays, had listed even more, and the waves were getting higher, crashing onto the deck. Despite the damage, the Fitzgerald pressed on.

Later that evening the Anderson picked up the Fitzgerald on her radar. Radio contact was established. And at 7:10 pm came the final message ever heard from the Edmund Fitzgerald:

"We are holding our own."
Shortly thereafter the Edmund Fitzgerald disappeared from radar, never to be seen above the surface again. All 29 crewmembers rode her down to the bottom of Superior.
The captain wired in he had water comin' in
and the good ship and crew was in peril.
And later that night when 'is lights went outta sight
came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
No one is certain what happened to make the Fitzgerald sank, but many experts believe that faulty cargo hatches, discovered a few days earlier, were a prime culprit. As the Fitzgerald continued in the storm, water from the rain and waves was saturating the iron ore: the ship becoming heavier the longer it was at sea. It is believed a wave overcame the overly-stressed vessel, sending it sinking without warning or a chance to recover. Expeditions to the Fitzgerald later found that the ship had snapped in two.

Route of the Edmund Fitzgerald's final voyage

The following day's newspapers screamed the loss of the "Fitz". Thousands came to Superior's shores to weep and pray for the lost. And on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit the Rev. Richard Ingalls peeled the church bell twenty-nine times - one for each man on the Fitzgerald - from the Old Mariners Church. He has done so each November 10th since, ringing the bell thirty times: one for each crewman and once more in memory of all those who have lost their lives in the Great Lakes.

All that was left of the Fitzgerald were some of the lifeboats found afterward and the ship's bell, later recovered and restored to rest in a museum in Whitefish Point, Michigan. The ship rests in over 500 feet of water 17 miles from Whitefish Bay.

The following year Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot released a six and a half minute song. It has become one of the most haunting ballads in history: "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald"...

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called "Gitche Gumee"
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy

With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the "Gales of November" came early

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger then most
With a crew and good captain well seasoned

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ship's bell rang
Could it be the north wind they been feelin'?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And ev'ry man knew, as the captain did too
'twas the witch of November come stealin'

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the Gales of November came slashin'
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
in the face of a hurricane west wind

When suppertime came the old cook came on deck sayin'
"Fellas, it's been too rough to feed ya"
At seven P.M. a main hatchway caved in, he said,
"Fellas, it's been good t'know ya"

The captain wired in he had water comin' in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when 'is lights went outta sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they put fifteen more miles behind 'er

They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms for her ice-water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams
The islands and bays are for sportsmen

And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the Gales of November remembered

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
at the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed 'til it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call "Gitche Gumee"
"Superior" they said, "never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early!"

Thirty years ago... it only seems like a long time. I was a year and a half old when the Fitzgerald foundered. A very young man still, but we look far across and above how we were thirty years ago. Above losing a mighty ship to the elements, certainly. And then we remember that the Fitzgerald is still a living memory in the hearts of the wives, sons, and daughters of her crew. We stand reminded that we are not masters, but come into each new day by the grace of God. And it's only by the grace of God that we can end the day warm in our homes.

Shipwrecks have gained new romanticism in the past few years with the interest in the Titanic. There have been times when the Fitzgerald has been compared to the doomed ocean liner, but that's wrong. The Fitzgerald wasn't a symbol of extravagance and opulence. She wasn't some far-removed spectacle beyond the dreams of the children who saw her. The "Fitz" was a component of their lives, something to take pride in. The Fitzgerald wasn't an exercise in vanity, but a good ship with a good crew, doing the best job it could.

Which would have been something to boast of more in the years to follow: to have ridden in comfort above the Titanic had she survived her maiden voyage, or to have worked hard alongside such men as on the Fitzgerald? I don't know about you, but my life would have been far richer to have been aboard the "Fitz", if only just once.

Anyway, since it will be thirty years ago tonight that the Edmund Fitzgerald was lost, I thought that a tribute was appropriate, in the best way that I know how. Gordon Lightfoot's ballad is the very first song that I can remember hearing, so this story has some kind of special meaning to me. This could be considered the last great shipwreck in American history: there has to be a sobering respect for that.

Here's to a good ship and crew...

(Some of this was adapted from a piece I wrote five years ago, but didn't have the opportunity to publish like I had wished. It's presented again here, on my own forum.)